Covid 19 Lockdown and The Human Rights of Workers in the Unorganized Sector in India by Rayan Singh Virdi

Covid 19 Lockdown and The Human Rights  of Workers in the  Unorganized Sector in India by Rayan Singh Virdi

The main objective of this article is to focus on human rights of workers specially those who belong to the unorganised sector and problem faced by them due to covid-19 lockdown. An unorganized worker plays a vital role in country’s economy but they are not recognized as the part of the society there lies the problem. According to the “Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008”: -

1.      “Unorganised sector" means an enterprise owned by individuals or self-employed workers and engaged in the production or sale of goods or providing service of any kind whatsoever, and where the enterprise employs workers, the number of such workers is less than 10.

2.      “Unorganised worker” means a home-based worker, self-employed worker or a wage worker in the unorganised sector and includes a worker in the organised sector who is not covered by any of the Acts mentioned in Schedule II to this Act; and.[1]

Unorganised labour’s includes handloom weavers, wedding planners, tannery labour, salon owners, artisans, handicrafts, truck and auto drivers, cobblers, fisherman, lady tailors, carpenters, rickshaw puller, washer man, security guard and so on. Now as the lockdown is in process, they are facing difficulties to run their livelihood. No one is able to get to their work place and earn, according to the report of the Economic Survey in 2019, total workforce of the country if from the unorganised sector which is 93%.[2] In 2018, NITI Aayog released a report in which it was stated that 85% are from unorganised sector.[3] They have a big hand in running the country’s economy.

Roughly there are four categories of Unorganised workers: -

1.      Wage Worker in the unorganised sector

2.      Self-employed in the unorganised sector

3.      Unprotected wage worker in the organised sector

4.      Home worker

There is no denial that government have made laws regarding “Unorganised workers” and on March 26, the central government announced a relief package of 1.7 trillion rupees to provide food and cash transfers to the poor vulnerable populations, and health insurance for healthcare workers, among other things, but the implication of those laws lacks somewhere, as we have noticed that during pandemic government had suspended the labour laws,[4] now where is the equality where did the Article 21 go. Migrants workers were going to their villages, towns or city on their foot as the transportation was on halt but the government where bringing the Indian’s from other countries rather, they should be transporting them first.[5] Some of them died, while travelling due to road accident, lack of food, shelter, health and other basic needs.

A fisherman said 1 lakh tonnes fishes went to waste as they cannot store it due to lack of ice and no cold rooms available and even if cold rooms were available there was no transport, no loaders, no drivers available. Why are fishermen always left out of the fold of security benefits. Not only the fisherman but all the unorganised workers are facing this problem. In all their faces it was only one look “a halted business with no guarantee of a quick revival after the lockdown”.[6] Also unorganized sector is facing problems related to rent, as landlords threatened to take legal action. If not paid within the stipulated time.

The government should ensure that those who are at higher risk, ASHA workers, Anganwadi workers, Safai karamcharis, people who are midday meal workers and those who are at front line during this crisis shall be provided protective equipment, medical benefit so that they can work effectively.

The unorganised sector does not have social security. As soon as the companies closes the most affected once are the unorganised workers and no worker is close to their work place they all have to travel miles to get to their work place. According to the (PLFS) of 2017-18, workers from non-agricultural sector with a regular salary and didn’t have a written job contract where around 71.1% and; 49.6% for any social security benefits and 54.2% were not eligible for paid leave.[7]  

The unorganised worker have small pay and little saving so they cannot stock up the essentials to survive weeks from lockdown and if they have families with them it gets more difficult for them to survive unless someone provides food. While lockdown works for the middle class and wealthy sections and they can somehow arrange or maintain themselves but on the other hand unorganised worker cannot maintain or arrange something for themselves.


Whatever happens in the world like tsunami, earthquake, lockdown, emergency or war and so on the most affect sector is the unorganised workers as they only depend on daily wages and they eat what they earn. They are considered as the lower sector rather they should be considered as the upper sector as they are plays pivotal role in the country’s economy.

[1] Legislative Department, ‘Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008’ (Legislative Department, 30 December 2008) <> accessed 01 June 2020
[2] Riya Rana, ‘India Lockdown: Most Affected Is Unorganized Sector; It Is 93% Of The Total Workforce, 41 Crore People Lack Economic Security’ (Inventiva, 30 March 2020) <,this%20figure%20is%2085%20percent.> accessed 01 June 2020
[3] Prasanna Mohanty, ‘Labour reforms: No one knows the size of India's informal workforce, not even the govt’ (Business Today,15 July 2019) <,total%20workforce%20is%20'informal'.&text=The%20government%20does%20recognise%20that%20the%20informal%20sector%20and%20workers%20contribute%20significantly.> accessed 01 June 2020
[4] PTI, ‘Lockdown-hit industry demands suspension of labour laws for 2-3 yrs.’ (Economic Times, 08 May 2020) <> accessed 02 June 2020
[5] HRW, ‘India: Covid-19 Lockdown Puts Poor at Risk’ (HRW, 27 March 2020) <> accessed 01 June 2020
[6] Priyanka Kavish, ‘Covid-19 lockdown impact: India's unorganised sector faces an uncertain future’ (Sabrang India, 14 April 2020) <> accessed 02 June 2020
[7] Suman Dovel, ‘Covid-19: Define social security for migrant workers | Opinion’ (Hindustan Times, 14 April 2020) <> accessed 02 June 2020