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MIGRANT WORKERS AND THEIR RIGHTS

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Written by: KRISHNAPRIYA M S



INTRODUCTION


Migration refers to movement from one place to another place in search of food, livelihood, shelter, etc. The reason for migration varies from access to basic necessities to larger goals like higher education and improving the standard of living. Whatever be the reason migration is an integral part of the development of society. This history of migration must have a close connection with the outburst of the Industrial Revolution in England in the 18th century. In India majority of people work in the farming sector, which leads to seasonal and disguised unemployment in villages. This acts as a big push for the people to migrate to the nearby town for employment. There are 2 factors for migration 1. Distance and 2. Time. There can be 6 types of migration Intra-district, Inter-district, Intra-state, Inter-state, National and international.[1] Interstate migration is the most discussed form of migration during recent days due to the plight they faced during COVID 19 pandemic. The majority of the migrant workers have daily waged labourers involved in construction works. We have enough legislation to protect the migrant workers in organized and unorganized sectors. These legislations provide them protection under the umbrella of rights.


THE CONTRACT LABOUR (REGULATION AND ABOLITION) ACT 1970


Sec 2 (b) of the contract act defines the contract labourer as a workman employed as in an establishment as he is hired in connection with such work by or through a contractor. The main vision of this act is to protect the contract labourers from being exploited and to regulate the working conditions of contract labour. The principal labourer and contactor are the 2 people liable to the workers to provide the labourers with sufficient facilities that are mentioned in sec 17, 18, and 19 of this act. The migrant workers have the provision to access canteens, proper restrooms, and first aid facilities as per sec 17, 18, and 19 respectively. The migrant workers have enough rights to claim all the facilities. An aware citizen could inform authorities for inspection.


Payment of wages: sec 21 makes both the contractor and principal employers liable for the payment of wages. The primary liability lies on the contractor for the payment of wages. The principal employer should keep someone responsible to supervise the distribution of wages and the contractor should also make sure that the representative is present during the distribution of wages. When the contractor fails to pay wages, the principal employer is responsible to pay wages.


The contractors are licensed under section 12 the principal employer also should register as under sec 7 and keep records of the employers hired through contractors. Provisions are there for regular inspections as well. Sec 22 penalizes when the contractor and principal employer refuse to cooperate with the inspectors. They shall be punishable with imprisonment extendable up to three months, or with a fine which is extendable up to five hundred rupees, or with both.[2]The provisions in this statute apply to all contract workers who fall under the definition specified in this act.


THE INTER-STATE MIGRANT WORKMEN (REGULATION OF EMPLOYMENT AND CONDITIONS OF SERVICE) ACT, 1979


The welfare facilities including travelling facilities are clearly explained under chapter 5 of this act. Sec 13(b) of this act specifies that the wages should not be paid less than the minimum wage specified in the minimum wages act 1948. And it also specifies specifically in sec 13(2) that the wages should be paid in cash.[3] These provisions will make it clear that the workers should be paid adequately; this specification aims to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers. Sec 14 of this act speaks about the displacement allowance which they have to get in addition to that of their wages. The minimum amount of displacement allowance is Rs 70. The contractors were liable to pay the amount for displacement. During COVID 19 period we saw many migrant workers were walking back to their villages. These poor were unknown about their rights. Paying the allowances during a crisis is equally problematic for the contractors as well. As per sec 15, they were entitled to get journey allowances as well. The journey allowances include the fare to return.[4]The people are still unaware that does these allowances were provided before the pandemic as well. Sec 16 specifies all other facilities including medical care as the responsibility of the contract. This act gives more duties to contractors to take care of the well-being of migrant workers specifically. This statute is exclusively applicable to migrant workers.


This statute makes the migrant workers entitled to get compensation under Workmen’s compensation act 1923. So that the migrant workers could get compensation for an accident that occurred during the course of employment. The workmen’s compensation act was enacted to protect the rights of casual labourers.[5]


RELIEF PACKAGES AVAILABLE


The government of India was trying to satisfy the needs of migrant labourers through government schemes. The government had promised to provide new employment schemes under “Garib Kalayan Rozar Abhiyaan” was introduced and promised to implement in 125 days in 116 districts.[6] 20 control rooms were set up by the Union labour ministry. The government had brought migrant labourers under the MGNAREGA scheme the wages under the scheme increased from Rs 182 to 202. The central government had directed the state government to create a database of migrant workers for the proper distribution of all schemes.[7]


CONCLUSION


While examining the legislations and schemes provided we will feel as the migrant workers are being protected by the government of India. But like any other legislations discussed the proper application of these laws is a challenging process especially during the COVID 19 pandemic. The schemes were launched during the first pandemic wave now we are facing the third wave vaccinating migrant workers is our next priority for protecting their rights the constitutional values are protected while examining all these statutes. Proper procedural setups are required inspections are to be done frequently and make sure of the health and well-being of migrant workers. Providing canteens and restrooms for migrant workers is something that has to be done properly don’t ignore these things. Either the contractor or the employers might be unaware of these rules. The public and authorities have the responsibility for the proper implementation of this statute. State rules are drafted to include broader protection under the umbrella of rights. The interstate migrant workmen act was the most discussed while having a glance through the rights of migrant labourers. The migrant labourers in organized and unorganized sectors are protected under this statute primarily. We all are responsible to know these rights and help in implementing this statute.


[1] Dr. W.N. SALVE Labour Rights and Labour Standards for Migrant Labour in India, available at: https://www.ilo.org/legacy/english/protection/travail/pdf/rdwpaper22a.pdf (last visited on June 25, 2021) [2]THE CONTRACT LABOUR (REGULATION AND ABOLITION) ACT, 1970 (Act 37of 1970) [3]The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 ( 30 of 1979) [4]The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979( 30 of 1979) [5]Mangala Ben v. Dalip Motwani, 1998 LLR 656. [6] PM Modi launches an employment scheme for migrant workers affected by coronavirus lockdown, available at https://economictimes.indiatimes.com (Last Modified June 20, 2021). [7]Ministry and labour and employment available at, https://pib.gov.ing ( Last Modified September 16, 2020 ).




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