‘Situation Similar to Migrants, Instruct Centre for Database on App-based Workers’: Union Writes to SC Bench

Days after the Supreme Court pulled up the Centre for the delay in setting up the web portal to register migrant and unorganised workers, a Telangana-based union sought similar direction from the apex court for creation of “a national database for gig and platform workers”.

It also wants the court bench to direct the app-based companies to provide “economic and social support packages”, to the workers and ensure that their income rates are “enhanced”.

The gig and platform workers have been overwhelmed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent second surge in cases has made matters worse for them, Telangana Gig and Platform Workers Union (TGPWU) said in a letter addressed to the SC bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M.R. Shah.

The letter dated July 1 further claimed that the loss of business due to lockdown and continuous harassment by recovery and loan agents for EMI payments have led to “quite a few suicides” in the driver and delivery workers community.

Given the prevailing dire situations, “we request you to instruct the Ministry of Labour and Employment for creating a National Database for “gig and platform workers” in collaboration and coordination with the states”, the union said, arguing that the circumstances faced by the concerned working group is similar to that of migrants.

On Tuesday, June 29, the same SC bench had slammed the Labour Ministry for its “unpardonable apathy” in not completing the work of the National Database for Unorganised Workers (NDWU) portal to register and identify migrant workers and unorganised labourers to ensure their rights, welfare and food security.

The apex court had ordered the ministry to finalise the NDWU module way back in the year 2018, according to The Hindu. The court’s remarks on Tuesday came in a suo moto case that it had taken up on May 26 last year concerning the welfare of migrant workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Both, in the first and the second wave of the pandemic, migrant workers had been exposed to financial and other forms of hardships due to their limited access and claim to the welfare resources offered by the states/Union Territories. Migrant labourers are particularly vulnerable to the economic regression,” the bench of Justices Bhushan and Shah noted in an 80-page judgement.

Subsequently, the Centre was ordered to complete the work on the portal by July 31 and should complete the registration of workers by December 31.

Moreover, to “ensure the availability of ration to beneficiaries under National Food Security Act (NFSA) and other welfare schemes, especially to the migrant workers and their families at any Fair Price Shop across the country”, the apex court also directed the state governments to implement One Nation One Ration Card scheme by July 31.

Citing the SC court ruling, TGPWU, through their letter, sought to implead themselves in the said petition. In addition, the union also placed their request to direct the Centre to extend the Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana to all app-based transport and delivery workers.

Under the scheme, 5 kg foodgrains per month is provided free of cost to 81.35 crore beneficiaries covered under the NFSA.

NewsClick had earlier reported on how the subdued commuter movement in urban centres amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic had pushed many app-based workers to penury. Their woes have only been compounded by the soaring fuel prices.

First published by Newsclick.