2020-07-14 11:02:00

NEW DELHI: The spread of coronavirus pandemic in the country and its impact on migrant labourers who are in need of immediate relief are likely to be the focus of two crucial parliamentary committee meetings on Wednesday.

Parliamentarians who are part of the standing committee of home affairs and labour will discuss handling of the pandemic and additional benefits that could be provided to migrant labourers who returned to their villages during the lockdown.

The two parliamentary panels have invited home secretary and labour secretary to brief their members. The focus of the standing committee on home affairs, chaired by senior Congress leader and former union minister Anand Sharma, will be on steps taken by union government to control the spread of coronavirus pandemic in the country along with coordination with different state government and the situation in the country in its backdrop.

The labour committee is expected to discuss changes in labour laws by union and state government and stakeholders’ opposition to these changes.

“The first part of the discussion will focus on the different steps taken by the union government and changes made in the labour laws. State governments have also made certain changes, so those issues will also be taken up. Of course some state government did withdraw the changes made in labour laws after the timely intervention by the standing committee but it will be interesting to know the view of the government,” said Bhartruhari Mahtab, chairman of the standing committee of Labour.

Mahtab further said the panel is also expected to talk about the possibility of extending the benefits of Employees State Insurance (ESI) and Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to migrant workers and labourers.

“Job crunch is problem and we want to understand the situation and the extent of the problem from the union government. Since ESI and EPF benefits depend on the number of workers in an industrial units, we want to explore how these benefits can be provided to all labourers irrespective of number of people employed with an industrial unit,” he added.

Members of the parliamentary committee on labour are also expected to focus on the steps taken by different state governments as some migrant labourers have now started returning to work as more industrial units open up in the country in an attempt to revive economic activity.

“We want to know if there is an estimate on the number of migrant labourers in the country and what is the estimate on the number of migrant labourers who returned to their villages during the lockdown. Now when economic activity is starting again, we want to know what steps are the state governments taken when labourers leave their home states and reach the state where they are employed. Is there a mechanism to record how many labourers are going to which states. How will state governments work for migrant labourers if they do not know how many labourers have gone to which state?” said Mahtab.

The meeting of the home affairs committee, which was earlier scheduled for June, has now called upon home secretary to brief its members. “Management of Covid-19 pandemic and coordination with State Governments, phased unlocking, resumption of economic activities, inter-state movement of people and goods and state of preparedness,” read the agenda for the meeting on Rajya Sabha website.

Parliamentary committees have started meeting since last week with strict social distancing norms in place. Last week saw meetings of science and technology committee over covid-19 and public accounts committee (PAC) over selection of subjects for scrutiny.

The committee on health and family welfare will meet on 4 August to discuss and hear the views of the union health secretary on covid-19 and related contingent and mitigation plan.

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