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2020: Year in Review: To COVID-19 Lockdown and Back. What do you think? Do tell us.

Dear supporters of the Safe in India team After a busy 2019, you could say we had our work cut out for 2020. But, as we now know too well, the year had different plans for all of us!

We share with you highlights from an eventful 2020 here at Safe in India in the video below:

1. We repurposed temporarily to provide COVID-19 relief to migrant workers in remote areas of Manesar

We began 2020 armed with our to-do lists – what could go wrong! And yet in March 2020, barely three months in, we had to repurpose our operations rapidly to address the urgent need among the migrant labour population around Gurgaon/Manesar: support and sustenance during a pandemic that has had a disproportionate impact on low-income communities.

With thanks to over 100 supporters, we:

  • Distributed 450,000+ adult meal units and 25,000+ masks.

  • Transported 250+ migrants to their homes in Bihar.

In addition, we conducted three monthly surveys during the lockdown to identify and escalate to administration, wage and employment issues due to the impact of COVID-19:

April 2020 survey of migrant workers: 37% did not receive March salary by mid-April; Only 35% received full March salary.

May 2020 survey "Unworthy": 75% not paid for April, 25% still not paid for March, 23% left Gurgaon for their villages and another 2-5% still want to leave.

June 2020 survey "Berozgaari": Unemployment at 47%; 1/4th left Gurgaon for their homes, 1/3rd of the remaining have no jobs. Another 1/3rd earned 30% lower than pre-COVID income of INR 9000-15000 pm; 57% borrowed for rent, 43% for food. These recommendations and Surveys were also covered by the media eg. HT, BT, Scroll, and the Wire.

2. Before and after COVID-19 lockdown, we continued our healthcare and compensation support to injured workers; now totalling 2,600 injured workers and Rs 20cr+ compensation:

Despite slowdown in production through most of the year, we found and assisted:

  • Another 320 injured workers in the auto-sector supply chain in Gurgaon-Faridabad. We have now assisted 2,600+ workers over 4 years.

  • Helped workers obtain another INR 3.7 crores in Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) compensation, a lower amount due to severe slowdown in ESIC operations. Total now at INR 20 crores.

3. Acceleration of the Accident-prevention agenda in the auto-sector supply chain; Launch of second annual report CRUSHED2020 and increased stakeholder engagement:

We launched the second edition of our annual accident prevention report CRUSHED2020–a sequel to CRUSHED2019. The report looked at trends in accident numbers, causes, and opportunities for prevention and presented practical recommendations for different stakeholders. CRUSHED2019 also lead to a suo moto complaint with Haryana Human Rights Commission.

Our stakeholder engagement and thankfully their response, increased further during the year:

  • Constructive collaboration with Maruti-Suzuki continued (In FY 19-20, they reported 300+ Tier Two supplier audits; and improvements in 4,000+ Power Presses and 1,900+ Moulding machines; included safety practices in their "Compliance Month" for suppliers, and promised us to create a "Supplier Code of Conduct"), direct engagement with Honda (as a start, they have promised engagement with their Tier 1/2 Pressing and Stamping suppliers to improve their safety practices), SIAM, and ACMA started and a number of actions agreed for 2021. We hope Hero - the third main OEM - to start a similar engagement soon.

  • The Haryana State government finally formed a committee to prevent accidents (Central Government had made one in 2019 under DG FASLI). As a follow up, a joint ISH-Maruti-Honda-Hero-SII Platform was created in January 2021.

  • Signed an MOU with the MSME Ministry to implement a few safety initiatives.

  • Inducted in BIS committee for recommendations to improve Power Press safety.

We also analysed and shared publicly declared Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) policies of India’s top 10 auto brands. This has initiated engagement with Eicher, Tata Motors, Honda, Maruti, TVS and Hyundai. More in a report in early 2021. Our detailed discussions with the Labour Ministry on Labour OSH Code yielded little, but we pushed for improvements in the accompanying Rules that will drive the implementation in the states. This will remain a tough fight! CRUSHED2020 findings were covered extensively in the media eg: BW, ET, TOI, HT and The Wire.

4. Despite ESIC slowing down throughout 2020. we continued our efforts for systemic improvements in ESIC: ESIC serves about 140 million Indians—all workers and their families—so any influence on their policies and procedures have a significant impact at a national level. Continuing from previous years, we provided constant evidence-backed feedback and operational recommendations to ESIC, a number of which were accepted.

We specifically focused on the Worker Unemployment Scheme (ABVKY) for COVID-relief we had recommended, tested it with 100+ workers, and pushed for ten improvements without which the scheme would have failed. ESIC accepted seven, issued circulars, and we expect it to result in disbursements of hundreds of crores, though it is unlikely to reach its target of INR 5,000 crores. We also pushed for improvements in the ESIC section of the government’s Social Security Code Rules, results of which we will see in 2021.

5. New efforts to build awareness among stakeholders especially workers:

To spread awareness at scale – both of ESIC benefits and safety practices, which many workers are unaware of–we launched a new Hindi Facebook page. This now has 3,000+ followers, 2,000+ ESIC quiz responses, and 18,000+ minutes video watch time. We also share updates through our website—blogs in particular. In 2020, unique visits to our website doubled to 10,000+, blog readership up five-fold to 10,000.

Did worker safety really matter to you? We paused in 2020 to ask you this question via a poll. In response, 87% of you said that auto brands should take the lead in preventing accidents in their supply chain. And 85% of you said that India cannot progress until all of us (read including workers) are better off. More here. We want future leaders of our country - men and women - to understand this ground reality and make their business decisions with these externalities in their hearts and minds. We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to conduct our 4th annual workshop at IIMA, 2nd annual guest lecture at LSE, a guest lecture at Azim Premji University, and our first lecture at Vedica Scholars and Aston University, UK.

And for the first time, we published and distributed 1,000+ 2021 Hindi calendars for workers that reinforce ESIC and safety tips.

Coming up in 2021

In 2021, we will continue to be focused on all three pillars of our activities.

Grassroots engagement with workers continues to be a priority; we will continue helping injured workers. To this end, in January 2021, we launched our second Worker Assistance Centre in Faridabad, expanding our reach from Gurgaon. This should enable us to reach thousands of new injured workers over next few years while also providing us new insights in both ESIC and national issues.

We have also now started a brand new initiative- participatory research with workers, where they will drive the research agenda, recommendations and the final report on their safety; we are incredibly excited about learning from them!

On the ESIC engagement front, we will continue our evidence-based efforts to influence ESIC to improve services nationally. ESIC is one public-sector entity that has the potential to give access to better healthcare to 140m Indians; it’s the last bit of relatively-better-quality-care-for-the-common-man-UK-NHS-style left in India and we believe that if it does not improve, it may be forced to go down the path of US-style private care, which is known to serve even the US poor badly, instead of the government trying to make it better for formal sector workers.

We will continue engaging with the auto-sector, the central and the state governments to prevent accidents. We had our first Haryana ISH-Maruti-Honda-Hero-Safe in India joint meeting in January 2021 and agreed on a number of actions. SIAM, ACMA, MSME Ministry, BIS, and some other stakeholders have also agreed on a number of recommendations. None of these will be easy—but if it were, it would have been done and we would not be needed. Your support and encouragement keep us going!

Your partnership

If there’s anything that 2020 has shown us, it’s the transformational impact of community: Many thanks to all of you who stayed with us through our journey —we’re grateful for you. We are also grateful to our new Council of Advisors, formed in 2020, consisting of respected experts on labour issues and ESIC from the IAS Cadre, Academia and Social Sector.

How you can continue helping?

We need to raise at least another INR 25 lacs for our current operations next year. If you would like to and are able to donate, please visit and, equally importantly, pass the word along to your friends, who feel for Indian workers and Indian worker productivity for India's sustainable growth.

We hope you will stay in touch with us on our English Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube channel and/or on our Hindi FB page.

Have a fabulous 2021!

The Safe In India Team

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