Muhammad Yunus – the social entrepreneur, banker, economist and civil society leader from Bangladesh, who was awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 2006 for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance – believes that the time has come to assign due importance to the workers of the unorganised sector, especially in South Asia. As the Coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn have rocked the world, the economist has reminded the Global Community that the unorganised sector should be recognised fast and first, else the State could not be able to bring most of the workers in the mainstream of the society. It is unfortunate that the State has seldom taken the responsibility of them, said Yunus. The State has concentrated mostly on the organised sector, despite knowing the fact that quite a large number of people, working in the unorganised sector, have saved the organised sector with their cheap labour!
This is why the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated the lives of millions of workers in the unorganised sector, prompting them to take shelter on the streets of the major cities. They are unable to get food and shelters in those cities, which have been built on their labour… because their labour has not been recognised! The complexity of various laws, rules and regulations has made contract labourers ‘illegal’ and even ‘criminal‘ at times in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka! They are deprived of fair wages, social security, as well as legal support. Even the Trade Unions are mostly ignoring the unorganised sector workers. In a country, like India, which has 29 provinces and seven Union Territories; the migrant workers are considered as intruders and infiltrators by other provinces, despite all being the Indian citizens. As a result, these productive citizens have failed to secure their places in the National Economy, in a way.
Today, when unemployment has emerged as another pandemic, with both production and demand declining, and all the industries have started taking cost-cutting measures, it seems that the State is not ready to recognise the unorganised sector workers. The fact, however, is that it is actually the right time to give up the old thoughts. The familiar concept of work culture has changed. The Work from Home is a fine example of this change. A huge difference between the organised sector and the unorganised sector was the workplace. The Societies of the Developing World still consider large factories or offices as the monuments of prestige in organised sector. On the contrary, those, who are involved in small scale industries and work from home, occupy a marginal position in the economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has obliterated this difference, somewhat. Now, the corporate leaders have started working from home! People, sitting at home, are seen enjoying various services.
The second difference is in the Terms of Work. The Organised Sector is reducing its work force to cut the overall cost of production! As far as the Unorganised Sector is concerned, the common practice is to pay the wage for a particular job. In other words, the pandemic has also removed the differences at workplace. A question naturally comes, as to why does the division among workers still exist? It is hardly acceptable anymore that a handful of lucky ones would be enjoying the rights and social security; while others will be deprived of the basic facilities and amenities. Indeed, the time has come for not considering this injustice as normal…
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