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Covid-19 can push 40 crore informal sector workers in India deeper into poverty: ILO

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Migrant workers in Delhi trying to get back to Uttar Pradesh amid the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown | Photo by Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint


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New Delhi: The COVID-19 crisis has the potential to push around 40 crore informal sector workers in India deeper into poverty, with the lockdown and other containment measures affecting jobs and earnings, an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report said on Tuesday.

India has imposed a three-week lockdown till April 14 to contain the pandemic. As per ILO, India is among the countries less equipped to handle the situation.

“COVID-19 is already affecting tens of millions of informal workers. In India, Nigeria and Brazil, the number of workers in the informal economy affected by the lockdown and other containment measures is substantial,” the ILO report released in Geneva said.

“In India, with a share of almost 90 per cent of people working in the informal economy, about 400 million workers in the informal economy are at risk of falling deeper into poverty during the crisis.”

“Current lockdown measures in India, which are at the high end of the University of Oxford’s COVID-19 Government Response Stringency Index, have impacted these workers significantly, forcing many of them to return to rural areas,” it said.

The report further said countries experiencing fragility, protracted conflict, recurrent natural disasters or forced displacement will face a multiple burden due to the pandemic.

“They are less equipped to prepare for and respond to COVID-19 as access to basic services, especially health and sanitation, is limited; decent work, social protection and safety at work are not a given; their institutions are weak; and social dialogue is impaired or absent,” it added.

The ILO also noted that the pandemic is having a catastrophic effect on working hours and earnings globally.

The new ILO report highlights some of the worst affected sectors and regions, and outlines policies to mitigate the crisis.


Also read: No paid leaves, lack of access to healthcare — world’s workers hit by coronavirus pandemic


It found that the crisis is expected to wipe out 6.7 per cent of working hours globally in the second quarter of 2020 — equivalent to 195 million full-time workers.

Large reductions are foreseen in the Arab states, (8.1 per cent, equivalent to 5 million full-time workers), Europe, (7.8 per cent, or 12 million full-time workers) and Asia and the Pacific (7.2 per cent, 125 million full-time workers).

Huge losses are expected across different income groups but especially in upper-middle income countries (7 per cent, 100 million full-time workers). This far exceeds the effects of the 2008-9 financial crisis.

The sectors most at risk include accommodation and food services, manufacturing, retail, and business and administrative activities.

The eventual increase in global unemployment during 2020 will depend substantially on future developments and policy measures.

There is a high risk that the end-of-year figure will be significantly higher than the initial ILO projection of 25 million, it said.

More than four out of five people (81 per cent) in the global workforce of 3.3 billion are currently affected by full or partial workplace closures.

“Workers and businesses are facing catastrophe, in both developed and developing economies,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said. “We have to move fast, decisively, and together. The right, urgent, measures, could make the difference between survival and collapse.”

The ‘ILO Monitor 2nd edition: COVID-19 and the world of work’, which describes COVID-19 as “the worst global crisis since World War II”, updates an ILO research note published on March 18.

The updated version includes sectoral and regional information on the effects of the pandemic.

According to the new study, 1.25 billion workers are employed in the sectors identified as being at high risk of “drastic and devastating” increases in layoffs and reductions in wages and working hours. Many are in low-paid, low-skilled jobs, where a sudden loss of income is devastating.

Looked at regionally, the proportion of workers in these “at risk” sectors varies from 41 per cent in the Americas to 26 per cent in Asia and the Pacific.

Other regions, particularly Africa, have higher levels of informality, which combined with a lack of social protection, high population density and weak capacity, pose severe health and economic challenges for governments, the report cautions.

Worldwide, two billion people work in the informal sector (mostly in emerging and developing economies) and are particularly at risk.

Large-scale, integrated, policy measures are needed, focusing on four pillars — supporting enterprises, employment and incomes; stimulating the economy and jobs; protecting workers in the workplace; and, using social dialogue between government, workers and employers to find solutions, the study says.

“This is the greatest test for international cooperation in more than 75 years,” said Ryder.

“If one country fails, then we all fail. We must find solutions that help all segments of our global society, particularly those that are most vulnerable or least able to help themselves.

“The choices we make today will directly affect the way this crisis unfolds and so the lives of billions of people,” he added.


Also read: Over 60% migrants don’t know govt measures in place for them to deal with lockdown: Survey


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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