The order by the Ministry of Home Affairs asking different industries to pay full wages to workers during the lockdown period has been withdrawn on May 17. The decision came from the Supreme Court, as one Karnataka-based medium-scale packaging company, Ficus Pax Pvt. Ltd., filed a writ petition to the SC to quash two Government of India notifications directing payment of full wages to workers and employees during the lockdown announced to contain the COVID19 pandemic.
The company’s writ petition, “Writ Petition No. 10983/2020 dated 15.05. 2020” before the Supreme Court had challenged the constitutional validity of a notification by the Secretary (Labour & Employment) on March 20th, and clause III of the March 29 notification, order no. 40-3/2020-DM-I-(A), both of which compelled full wages payments to workers and employees during the period of lockdown.
The Advocate on Record, Jeetender Gupta submitted in his plea, that these two notifications were “arbitrary, illegal, irrational, unreasonable and contrary to the provisions of law including Article 14 and Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India.”
This came as a consolation for many business owners as the 20 Lakh Crore economic stimulus package didn’t have any provisions for wage subsidy despite the demands for wage subsidies from different federations and organisations like Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), which requested a 50% wage subsidy.
In Sikkim, industries and companies are mostly following state guidelines issued by the state, which varied on different sectors, as per the payment of wages. Most of the guidelines were on par with the MHA’s orders. Pharmaceutical companies were instructed to give an additional Rs 300 per day on their salary, resonating the decision of letting pharmaceutical companies function and in a greater capacity.
Deepak Verma, General Manager of Zuventus, informed that they complied with the state’s instructions. He also informed that there has not been any discussion as per the verdict of the SC as that was a corporate decision and no statements could be passed.
“We were adhering to the state’s decision and paying double to the already established Rs 300 per day casual worker wages, but the thing is there is a line omitted here on knowing who is really facing dire challenges and who is just taking advantage of the instructions,” he opines.
“The decision on the quashing of the MHA’s orders by the Supreme Court is a corporate decision and I cannot give any official statements right now. The IMDA will come on record after analysing and then acting upon all the aspects. Since the decision will have to adhere throughout the nation, I still don’t know what the ramifications will be.”
Similar viewpoints were given by the managers of a couple of more pharmaceutical companies in Sikkim cowering away from official statements, saying the corporate would come up with the same, and affirming the fact that full wages were being paid to the employees.
Naresh Shrestha, proprietor of Nettle and Fern, Gangtok Groove, and Loafing Around says, “I have 65 people as staff throughout my businesses, and we have been paying them, most of them are bread earners for their families and we were giving them certain percentages of their salary.”
“With the pandemic and the lockdown, and with our hurting businesses, we have told our employees that we are not letting them go. With online deliveries and takeaways, the burden has been lifted a little, but we still hope they let us deliver till 8:00 PM so to help us help the employees. We haven’t taken any profit and are redirecting everything to the employees,” he says.