Lip service to labour rights

Lip service to labour rights

News:

  1. The recent rape of a 14-month-old child in Gujarat by Bihari man sparked protests and attacks on migrants that prompted an estimated exodus of 50,000 labourers belonging to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh.

Important Facts:

  1. The inter-state migrant workers are regulated under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act and other labour laws (for unorganised workers).
  2. About the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act,1979:
  • The objective of the Act is to regulate the employment of Inter-State Migrant Workmen, to safeguard their interest and to provide for their conditions of service and for matters connected therewith.
  • The provisions of the Act are applicable to every establishment in which five or more Inter-State workmen are employed and to every contractor, who employs or employed five or more Inter-State Migrant workmen on any day of the preceding 12 months.
  • Deputy Labour Commissioners of the labour Department have been appointed Registering and Licensing Officers under the Act for the respective areas falling under their control.
  • Under this Act, the governments of the States from where migrant workforce originate are expected to issue licences to contractors who take workers away, register such workers and also monitor their working and living conditions in other States.
  1. Other regulations:
  • The Gujarat government passed a rule in the 1990s making it mandatory for industries and employers in Gujarat to give 85% of jobs to local people.
  • This rule was never really implemented in reality, but watered down in subsequent industrial policies, as new and large investors coming to the State did not like any such restrictions.
  1. Issues:
  • Gujrat is one of the top States in India that receive migrant workers, largely temporary and seasonal, on a large scale engaged in unskilled or semi-skilled jobs such as in agriculture, construction work, textiles, embroidery and diamond cutting and polishing etc.
  • However, Gujarat government has no data on/estimates of migrant workers coming to Gujarat which informally are estimated to be between 40 lakh to one crore.
  • The migrant workers face pathetic condition like earning low wages, working very long hours without any overtime benefits, and are almost without any leave or social protection.
  • Local workers resent the presence of migrant workers who they feel take away their jobs in factories and other places on account of being cheap labour.
  • There has been hardly any mention about protecting the legal rights of migrant workers in India.
  • The political impulse has been to maintain status quo of the continuation of the situation where migrant workers are exploited.
  • For example, Gujarat government wants migrant workers for the prosperity of Gujarat, while the Bihar government, which is managing the sudden inflow of returning migrants, wants migration to Gujarat to continue as before.
  1. Way forward:
  • Now there is a move in Gujrat to introduce a law for industries and investors in Gujarat which reserves 80% of labour jobs for State domiciles and at least 25% for local workers.
  • The real solution would be to enforce all relevant labour laws for migrant workers so that segmentation of the labour market becomes weak, and workers (local and migrant) get a fair and equal deal in the labour market.
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