Report finds ‘brazen class bias’ in govt. policies during pandemic

A report highlighting the experience of vulnerable groups in accessing citizenship, early childhood care and education, public employment and protected wages in 2019 and 2020, till the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, was released on Saturday.

The India Exclusion Report 2019-2020 of the Centre for Equity Studies, with chapters authored by economists Jayati Ghosh and Prabhat Patnaik, among others, was released during a webinar. CES director and editor of the report Harsh Mander wrote that there was “brazen class bias” in the government’s policies, including imposing a harsh lockdown at short notice, that affected the lives of the poor, while the middle class supported the measure.

“This should be a moment of civilisational introspection. A recognition of the abject collapse of our moral centre and our collective culpability in the social crime of the radical dispossession of our people,” he wrote.

The report found that the condition of migrant workers from Odisha’s Ganjam district in the textile industry in Surat had been desperate even before the pandemic. The experience of sex workers in Delhi, Kolkata and Hyderabad was highlighted through a survey of 600 sex workers conducted by the All-India Network of Sex Workers.

In her chapter, Prof. Ghosh argued that public employment was necessary for securing social goods, including security, justice, health, sanitation and education. “Public employment can be a major way of improving the quality of life for all citizens by providing essential public services. While this has been evident for a while it has become starkly clear during the COVID-19 pandemic. The importance of public workers to ensure essential health services, to monitor labour rights and assist workers and to provide a range of other essential services is now apparent to all,” she wrote.

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