“Food support to Indian migrants lack clarity:” Naushad Forbers, former president of CII

indica News Bureau-

The lockdown in India may have temporarily slowed down the spread of the coronavirus to a certain extent, but it has certainly wreaked havoc to millions of lives, especially to the migrant population of the country.

In an Indian Express webinar on Wednesday, Naushad Forbes, co-chairman of Forbes Marshall and president of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) said.“Millions of migrants who had to rush home because of the lockdown could have been helped if the government had accepted a proposal to guarantee loans to companies by banks to fund wages during the lockdown.”

For these migrants, life has been anything but easy, as walking back home literally thousands of kilometers was their only option. Because the cities they had helped build and run seemed to have turned their backs on them overnight. And the trains and buses which should have carried them home, suspended. For many it so seemed that being affected by the virus would’ve been a better option.

Forbes also said that the government could have organized the lockdown with better planning. The situation would have been far better if there were proper preparations to allow the movement of people.

“I do not know why the first lockdown needed to be announced with four hours,” notice. That’s what caused a lot of the immediate crisis for many migrant workers because there was a certain mass of people who were trying to try to get on trains and so on to go home,” he said. Forbes also said that the package announced by the government so far has fallen short of the “fundamental need for direct benefit transfers to the most vulnerable in society.

He pointing the hundredes and thousands of migrants said that they need reassurance that they will be taken care of because, in these uncertain times, it is sound economics that offers better social safety fallback. And India’s migrants who have lost all hope and are on the brink of losing their lives, need that reassurance badly. The food support program for the migrants announced by the prime minister last week lacked clarity on how exactly the government has planned to implement it.

Forbes said that it could’ve helped the migrants if the government had accepted a CII proposal that enterprises be given loans at 4-5 percent interest, guaranteed by the government to allow firms to pay three months’ wages. The Centre has announced a package guaranteeing collateral-free loans of Rs 3 lakh crore to MSMEs.

He strongly suggested that the labor laws and contracts in the country need to be immediately addressed.

Forbes said that state governments have to work on providing labor regulations with a balance of protection for workers and flexibility for employers. “Let states get that balance. Let states compete, on tweaking the balance of protection flexibility. I think we can,” he said, noting that when they compete, states should not compete in a race to the bottom with no laws.

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