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'Stimulus packages will help the workers'

February 20, 2009 17:59 IST

Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes on Friday lashed out at the Communists for being 'unfair' in accusing the government of coming out  with economy stimulus packages only to bail out the corporate sector without paying any heed to the fate of the retrenched workers.

Prevention of the large-scale job losses was the prime goal behind the advance action the government took in lowering bank rates and providing tax relief to the industry, the minister asserted, pointing out that these packages helped the workers retain jobs as "no industry can run without the workers."

He was responding to a call-attention motion in the Lok Sabha by Communist party of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta, lambasting the government for doing little to help out the jobless workers. Fernandes said the government was conscious and concerned over the adverse impact of the financial crisis leading to retrenchment, layoffs and wage cuts in various sectors of the economy.

Dasgupa and Communist Party of India (Marxist) member Roopchand Pal said the government should slap the condition of "no retrenchment" on the industries getting soft bank loans and tax cuts to let them absorb the losses instead of making the workers suffer.

It is a 'corporate-made' crisis and the labour is being made to suffer, Dasgupta asserted while Pal wondered why the government cannot quickly bring an employment guarantee scheme for the urban victims of the economic meltdown on the lines of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme.

Fernandes said the government was already seized of the NREGP-type programme for the urban jobless, hoping that "something will come out of it soon." He said the worst hit today is the construction industry which accounts for the highest labour force in the unorganised sector. He said he can, however, take a solace in the fact that the construction workers rendered jobless can return to their village to get employment under the NREGP.

He said the government was conscious of a recent Labour Bureau's sample survey indicating 500,000 losing jobs in three months between October and December. Dasgupta, however, contested the figure, pointing out that more than 20 lakh (2 million) workers have lost jobs in the recent period, while the Labour Bureau by its own admission says it has carried out the survey only in 20 centre in 11 states and that too in the enterprises with more than 10 workers. The worst-hit is the small scale industries that were omitted from the survey, he asserted.

The minister said it was only a sample survey that cannot provide the full picture of the total jobs lost. He said the government was already engaged in preparing a roadmap for future actions to help out the workers hit by the economic slowdown as he has already held a meeting with the trade union representatives on Monday.

The two-day Indian Labour Conference, which, has just begun in the capital to deliberate the steps to mitigate the sufferings of the workers is being attended by the labour ministers of the states and other stakeholders, he added.

Fernandes said the government has already doubled the unemployment allowance to the workers covered by the Employee State Insurance scheme.

Instead of getting three months' salary as the allowance spread over six months, they will now get six months' salary spread over one year to reduce their suffering to some extent, he added.

Our Correspondent in New Delhi