As many as 93 million urban informal workers, across five sectors — manufacturing, construction, trade, tourism and hospitality — have been affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

As many as 93 million urban informal workers, across five sectors — manufacturing, construction, trade, tourism and hospitality — have been affected by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown imposed to slow its spread, according to an informal Group of Ministers headed by social justice minister Thawarchand Gehlot.

Among the suggestions, which were submitted in a report to the Prime Minister’s Office last week are: a database of the workers; a job card for every migrant worker returning to their village and a complete tweaking of the rural employment guarantee scheme that allows work in a private factory or construction site, with the employer paying wages above the MNREGA wage component which will continue to be paid by the government; and an app named Kaushal (literally, skill) that allows workers to register for skill development courses and also reach out to potential employers.

Hindustan Times has reviewed the contents of the report. Gehlot declined comment on the report and said its “contents are not public yet.’’

The group also emphasised that there need to be confidence building measures to bring back migrant workers to the cities. These could be in the form of scholarships for their children, access to anganwadis and training and upskilling. All migrant workers should be automatically enrolled in the Ayushman Bharat or national health insurance scheme, the ministerial group said.

“We tried to touch upon every aspect in our report,’’ said one of the ministers part of the GoM, “But let us see which ones are approved by the Prime Minister before we comment on it.’’

The group also pointed out that even workers in the organised sector faced the risk of losing their jobs.

The Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy (CMIE) announcedlast weekthat 114 million jobs have been lost in April and unemployment is at a record high of 27.1%.

The report , while acknowledging that the lockdown saved lives, says that the country now faces an economic crisis whose elements include the loss of jobs and livelihood. Its very first recommendation is to restart economic activities at the earliest.

To be sure, the government has allowed for the restart of more economic activities in a phased manner — from May 3, and subsequently, from May 18.

This week, it announced the restarting of limited flights and some regular train services.

Biswajit Dhar who teaches economics at Jawahar Lal Nehru University isn’t convinced an app will help. “The migrants need immediate help and so the government should see this as an opportunity to boost the rural economy and help them find jobs locally. How will apps help when most of them won’t be online?’’

Courtesy HindustanTimes