Is 'Right to Work' More Important Than 'Minimum Income Guarantee'? -Dunu Roy
Various remedies are being suggested to tackle the growing rate of unemployment, but are they in tandem with the needs of the workers?
Two issues were concealed under the din of elections. The first is the depth of the agrarian crisis with rising costs, falling prices and diminishing livelihoods. The second is the declining rate of employment in urban India, even within the informal sector, and the tumult among the youth who have no future.
While most electioneering superficially touched upon the two problems and their remedies, the attention paid to both by academics and the media exhibits a social pressure.
The purpose of this essay is to examine if this attention is in accord with the needs of the workers, as expressed in documents and charters issued on their behalf, on the issue of urban unemployment.
One of the pivots around which this examination will take place is the proposal to have an Urban Employment Guarantee Programme. The other is the suggestion to implement a Minimum Income Guarantee.
The lead in the first has been taken by scholars from Azim Premji University (APU), who have recently published their report on ‘Strengthening Towns through Sustainable Employment: A Job Guarantee Programme for Urban India’ (JGPUI).
The second featured in the manifesto of the Indian National Congress (INC), as the Nyuntam Aay Yojana (NYAY) that promised to transfer Rs 6,000 per month directly into the bank accounts of around five crore households constituting the bottom 20% of the population.
Set against these two was a Workers Charter for the 17th Lok Sabha election, mapped out by the New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI), and the Right to Work Bill (R2WB) prepared by the Sajha Manch. The former is a national federation of several independent trade unions formed in 2001 to give space for the co-existence of multiple progressive political tendencies. The latter is a platform of small informal labour organisations in Delhi who came together in 1998 for mutual support.
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