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Editorial

Plight of Labourers : The Way Forward

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By The Editorial Team Updated: Jul 01, 2020 8:00 pm
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The days following the announcement of the nationwide lockdown saw a large section of labourers begin walking towards their homes, while the rest were left stranded without any income or food security. The nationwide lockdown was declared on March 24. After which weeks of hardships for migrant labourers kept on increasing until they finally managed to return to their homes. According to the periodic labour force survey in India, during 2017-18, among regular wage/salaried employees in the non-agriculture sector, 71.1 per cent had no written job contract; 72.3 percent among males and 66.8 per cent among females. In urban areas, among male regular wage/salaried employees, 72.7 per cent had no written job contract and among female regular wage/salaried employees, 71.4 per cent had no written job contract. Thus, highlighting why the total lockdown left the labourers with no job security or rights as the entire global economy stood at a standstill and the global pandemic raged on.

But, one must admit that the pandemic has provided us a chance to rectify such mistakes. So that in a similar situation in the future, the migrant labourers do not face such hardships. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has already decided to make registration compulsory for the labourers who want to go to other states to earn their livelihood. Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio has also announced that in the future, anyone who wishes to work outside the state must register to avail aid in case of emergency. Nagaland government’s Labour department and ITC department have opened a portal to connect employers and job seekers, to aid employment and also provide essential data to the government for future economic planning. With slight modification, the steps taken by the Uttar Pradesh government and Nagaland government can serve as models to ease the plight of migrant labourers. Every state must register the names of all the people who have gone outside the state in search of income. If proper records are available, it will be easy and systematic for state governments to inform the railways or the civil aviation authorities on the number of people needed to be evacuated from other states. Moreover, with the help of the register, state governments will also be able to make proper planning to transport labourers back home. If we start following this practice with immediate effect, scenes of migrant labourers returning to their homes by foot and with their belongings, without food and water will never be repeated again.

Secondly, we will have to work in earnest to make the size of the unorganised sector as small as possible. At present in India nine out of 10 workers belong to unorganised sector. Such a huge chunk of the labour force does not enjoy any job security, pay scale, health benefits and other facilities which are available in the organised sector. The first step to achieve this goal can be strict enforcement of minimum wage. Employers not following the rules should be banned from doing any business or penalised at the very least. Furthermore, each and every employer should be duty-bound to register the names of their employees for health schemes. On its part, the government should ensure the inclusion of every single labourer in the ESI scheme. On the ground, reality is often that the migrant labourers are forced to live in unhygienic and inhuman conditions. Henceforth, it should be made mandatory that authorities do not permit employers to import labourers without proper housing facilities. State governments should further facilitate enrolment of workforce to central schemes such as Ayushman Bharat Yojana for national health coverage and Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana in-order to avail essential financial services. If all such steps are followed strictly, the plight of migrant labourers will be much less than what it
is today.

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By The Editorial Team Updated: Jul 01, 2020 8:00:50 pm