May 31, 2020

Delhi: Relief Work carried out in Lockdown

Anurag Saxena and Virender Gaur

THE central government imposed a lock-down / curfew in the entire country from March 25, 2020. The people in Delhi-NCR and in other states/UTs in the country were caught unaware by the sudden announcement, which now appears to have been announced without any planning and preparation. Casual workers, who were dependent upon the daily wages, were staring at the crisis. It was a question of their survival. No work for them meant no wages; impacting their abilities to procure food. Considering this, CITU Delhi leadership decided that it will help the labourers by giving them  ration materials so that they do not go hungry in the lock down period.


Relief work was started in Delhi, Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar (Noida) from March 28, 2020. The state leadership also established contacts with the workers from West Bengal and Jammu and Kashmir and organised the relief work among them. Relief work was organised under the constraint of several restrictions imposed due to lockdown. All measures were taken to prevent the spread of epidemic further. The relief operations are continuing. CITU made several requests for fund donations from its sympathisers and people of Delhi-NCR.  While the first appeal was made on March 28, the second was made on April 14, 2020, after the lockdown was extended further.


The state and district leadership of CITU along with the other comrades worked hard to make the relief operations successful. A sum of Rs 30 lakh was collected and relief worth Rs 27 lakh was distributed in the form of ration items among more than 30,000 workers stranded in Delhi and neighbouring areas. The workers belonged to different states like Assam, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Kashmir, UP and Delhi and were engaged in diverse activities such as construction, garbage picking, street vending, house cleaning, rickshaw pullers, auto drivers, garment industry workers, zari workers, papad makers, etc. The CITU Delhi has also thanked all the 584 donors swho contributed the money. Help was received from AIDWA, DYFI, Bangla Manch.

Along with this, cooked ration material from Delhi government worth eight lakh rupees were also distributed. In Ghaziabad and Gautam Budh Nagar, a list of migrant labourers was provided to the district administration for free distribution of five ration items to each stranded worker. Several youth were also inspired from neighbouring localities to come forward and help the migrant workers in this hour of crisis. One of the important achievements of CITU during this time was to force Delhi government to provide eight extra ration items along with the rice and wheat to the stranded labourers. CITU also helped workers of Delhi in getting them e-coupons. Along with this, the membership drive was also carried out. Today, according to the report from the districts, the CITU was able to add 2,300 new members. Membership campaign is currently in progress.


Most of the factory owners are refusing to pay the monthly salary to the workers on the pretext of lockdowns.  This has compounded the problem of the migrant labourers. They are not able to pay the rent of the rooms. They are not able to meet their basic minimum expenses daily.  Unions have taken actions. However, the labour department of Delhi government has refused to take any concrete action in this regard. The organisational leadership also felt that the government ‘s efforts to provide food to the migrant and stranded labourers were not enough and this was the primary reason that the labourers were reverse- migrating to their homes.


The ration distribution system of the government is in disarray. The CITU has received several complaints such as delay in getting ration on the issued e-coupons, issue of waitlisted e-coupons, delay in getting eight-items ration kits, etc.. In this background the CITU has decided to continue the relief operations especially distribution of ration.


The CITU Delhi forced the government to disburse an amount of Rs 5,000 directly to the account of 4,00,000 registered construction labourers twice through the Construction Workers Welfare Board. We were also successful in getting the registration open for unregistered labourers after May 15.  In Ghaziabad district, the CITU was able to force the district administration to help 13,000 construction workers with a relief amount of 1,000 rupees each to their accounts. A similar help could be organised in Gautam Buddh Nagar.

A sinister plan is underway to take back the hard-earned rights of the working people on the pretext of fighting Covid-19. In this plan, central and state governments are hand-in-glove with the capitalists who want the labour laws to be withdrawn. The CITU has decided to protest against it. On May 22, 2020, there will be huge protests at several places in Ghaziabad, Gautam Buddh Nagar (NOIDA) and Delhi. There will be a joint protest at Rajghat in Delhi.