May 09, 2021

PM urged to Cement Unity of all people during COVID Crisis

THE joint platform of Central Trade Unions and Federations has urged prime minister, Narendra Modi to cement a proactive unity of all people and to meet the challenge posed by the calamity of the second wave of COVID-19.

In a letter to the PM on April 28th, the CTUs have said that it is necessary for all sections to feel that the government is taking care of them, especially the toiling masses, who are forced to leave their homes in search of livelihoods. They suffered untold miseries last year as a result of sudden lockdown and their plight continues to this day, the letter said.

The CTUs pointed that the frontline workers, anganwadi workers, ASHA, and sanitation workers who have to deal with the survey of COVID-19 patients and to clear their refusal has been burdened with work and has been given fake promises of compensation. They cannot be treated like this by the government itself, it said.

“What we unfortunately see is a complete lack of planning, callous, discriminatory policies and despicable blame game launched by your party to destabilise non-BJP state governments, when the need of the hour is proactive unity as stated at the beginning of this representation,” it said.

They also slammed the BJP government at the centre for putting corporate profits above the precious lives of people through its vaccine policy. “Today, it is crucial to strictly regulate, under direct government supervision, the entire vaccination process to ensure that the entire population is vaccinated within a definite time frame. Vaccine production must be urgently scaled up; it must be imported as necessary,” it said.

The CTUs condemned the government for succumbing to the profit-hungry international drug mafia and liberalised vaccine sales. “The new vaccine policy liberalises the vaccine sale by deregulating the prices through a discriminatory process that too without taking any concrete measures for augmenting availability,” they said.

They slammed the central government for putting the burden of procuring vaccines on the state governments’ shoulders. “The policy that the state governments have to procure the vaccines from the open market with a higher price of Rs 400/Rs 600 per dose as announced by the two vaccine companies in India; they will be thrown into unhealthy competition with each other and also with the private sector hospitals which are also free to procure the vaccines at Rs 600/ Rs 1200. It is atrocious that the Serum Institute has announced Rs 400 per dose of vaccine for the state governments and Rs 600 for private hospitals in India. It may be noted that Covisheild is priced at 1.78 Euro (Rs 160) in Europe and at $4 (Rs 300) in the US and Bangladesh, at Rs 237 in Brazil, at Rs 226 in UK,” they said. 

The letter highlighted that the pro-corporate deregulation on vaccines and other essential ingredients of pandemic management will further facilitate hoarding and black marketing which is already going on in the case of essential medicines like Remdesivir and medical oxygen.

The joint platform of Central Trade Unions and Federations demanded the government to withdraw the new pro-corporate as well as discriminatory vaccine policy and take immediate measures to ensure 100 per cent procurement of the vaccine, adequate supply of vaccines to the states, free of cost, utilising the PM care fund. “The government, sufficiently empowered by Disaster Management Act must not abdicate its responsibility of prioritising the protection of the lives of the people during this grave pandemic, over profiteering by vaccine-pharmaceutical barons,” the CTUs stressed.

The joint platform of trade unions pointed out that it is the public sector companies that are, as ever, coming to the rescue of the nation in this critical situation. “It is the public sector steel companies that are producing and supplying oxygen; it is the Indian Railways that is transporting oxygen to the needy states,” it said and reminded the government that it was the public sector financial institutions in our country that have protected the country against 2008 world crisis.

The joint platform of trade unions demanded that the government must immediately stop its mindless privatisation drive. They also demanded that immediate measures be taken to strengthen the existing public sector medicine and oxygen production units which are already playing a frontline role in producing/supplying oxygen and other necessities and establish new ones to ensure universal and comprehensive public health care. The defense production facilities should be put in use as they had been in the earlier wave and had done a commendable job, it added.

“Ever since the first wave of the pandemic, you have used the consequent curbs as a pretext to push through many anti-worker, anti-farmer legislations, unconstitutional and discriminatory legislations such as CAA, the New Education Policy and rank pro-corporate measures such as tax concessions for them, wholesale privatization of public sector entities of financial, manufacturing, power, defence, transport sectors, the launch of opaque PMCARES fund. All on the basis of your majority in the parliament,” the CTUs said.

They added that nearly the entire toiling masses are expressing their opposition to these measures, but the prime minister has shown scant regard for meaningful dialogue with any of the sectors involved.

“The obvious taming of watchdog agencies created by our Constitution as well as the media (social, electronic as well as print) has led to your government being labelled "elected autocracy" in the democratic world,” they said. They demanded that the four labour codes and three farm laws be repealed immediately and thereafter enter into genuine dialogue with the stakeholders.

The joint platform of Central Trade Unions and Sectoral Federations placed eleven demands for urgent positive action including demand to ramp up vaccine production and ensure universal free vaccination within a definite time frame. They also demanded the government to ensure free supply of oxygen in the present crisis, adequate hospital beds, oxygen and other medical facilities to meet the Covid surge.

They demanded that the anti-people discriminatory pro-corporate vaccine policy be scrapped and measures to be taken to strengthen public health infrastructure including recruiting the necessary health personnel. They sought any order under the Disaster Management Act issued by any authority imposing restrictions in movement, curfew etc., must accompany strict order on all employers and all concerned banning retrenchment, wage-cut and eviction from residences etc and the same must be strictly enforced.

Scrapping of anti-worker Labour Codes and anti-people Farm Laws and Electricity Bill, stopping privatisation and disinvestment of PSUs and government departments have also been demanded. In view of the intensifying crisis, the CTUs demanded a cash transfer of Rs 7,500 per month for all non-income tax-paying families. They also sought 10 kg free food grains per person per month for the next six months.

Lastly, the joint platform of CTU’s demanded that steps should be taken to ensure non-Covid patients get effective treatment in government hospitals and to ensure availability of protective gear, equipments etc., for all health and frontline workers and those engaged in pandemic-management work including ASHAs and anganwadi employees along with comprehensive insurance coverage for them all.

The signatories to this statement comprised: INTUC, AITUC, HMS, CITU, AIUTUCC, TUCC, SEWA, AICCTU, LPF and UTUC.