Union Minister for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Ms. Nirmala Sitharaman, held a pre-Budget consultation in connection with General Budget 2020-21 with leading representatives from the water and sanitation sectors on December 23, 2019 in New Delhi. ActionAid Association was one of the organizations invited for the meeting. During the discussions, we shared our inputs towards addressing the various challenges in the provision of quality water, sanitation, solid waste management and drainage; and disparities in water and sanitation access. Drawing from the experience of our grassroots engagements, we also shared some specific suggestions towards scaling up rural sanitation and hygiene.
The same day, Union Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs, Mr. Anurag Thakur, chaired a pre-Budget consultation with representatives from health, education and rural development sectors. ActionAid Association contributed with its inputs at this meeting as well. The main areas of discussion were related to improving efficiency in delivery of health services; devising innovative ways to reach primary healthcare facilities for marginalized sections; improving learning outcomes at the primary level while also making secondary and higher level education accessible and affordable; reforms related to pension and social protections especially for the weaker sections; ways to boost economic and social infrastructure of rural sector; and ways to eradicate unemployment and poverty through development of agriculture and allied sector as well as the non-farm sector. Our inputs focused on workers’ rights, including social security, access to decent work and safe and dignified working conditions; women’s empowerment and access to work; and children’s access to quality public education. We also talked about measures towards ensuring social, economic and political rights of tribals, including nomadic and de-notified tribes and communities, and augmenting and increasing incomes of people dependent on agriculture.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Labour is reviewing the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code (OSH Code), one of the four codes aimed at overhauling India’s labour sector laws. ActionAid Association submitted a set of recommendations on the same and was invited by the Committee to present its views. We suggested that the working hours be fixed and maintained at eight hours, and that basic minimum standards for decent and safe working spaces be included in the Code. Furthermore, while welcoming the proposal on allowing women to work in the night shifts with their consent, we also suggested that the government must mandate the provisions which enable them to do so. This includes adequate security, crèches, canteens, washrooms and changing facilities and transportation. Also, the Code puts the responsibility on the employers to provide a crèche and other facilities. Since this would place a burden on people running small and medium enterprises, we suggested that the government make provision for common facilities for workers in a particular sector and area which can be maintained by a group of enterprises. In addition, the OSH Code is applicable only for establishments with ten or more workers. We suggested devising a mechanism to ensure safety and health of workers in micro, family-run establishments that employ less than 10 workers.