Actor-politician Kamal Haasan has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take "swift steps to save the livelihood" of millions in the country's workforce, in an open letter.
"...More than 90 per cent of our workforce is the informal sector who make their daily ends meet. If we consider the workforce even in the 'formal' sector that does not enjoy standard employee benefits, this could be more than 95%. They are our construction workers, agriculture and manual labourers, fishermen, MSME workers and so on," Kamal Haasan wrote in the letter.
"I write this letter to urge the Government to not lose sight of the plight of these unsung heroes who toil hard to power our economy and build our nation. The 'Economic Response task force' set up by the government needs to address the issue with alacrity," said the 65-year-old leader of Makkal Needhi Maiam.
Economic experts, he wrote, had suggested measures like tax breaks, deferred credits and grants.
"The taskforce should ensure that there is no drop in wages of our labour force. It should also consider direct cash transfer to this most vulnerable populace to enable them tide over this crisis," he wrote.
"While human lives are in danger and all steps need to be taken to save them, the fear of virus should not be compounded by the fear of loss of livelihood," Kamal Haasan said in the two-page letter.
Most of India has gone into complete lockdown, with trains and inter-state buses shut down to restrict the movement of people and reduce the chances of the highly contagious virus spreading quickly through densely populated areas.
Daily wage earners have been hit hard. Tens of thousands had been returning home in crowded trains to get back to their villages.
The restrictions will cause a massive disruption to their livelihoods, say experts.
Worldwide, the economy has gone into a tailspin affecting all from airlines to small traders as more and more cities shut down.