Non-implementation of 1979 law caused migrant worker distress during lockdown: NHRC

NEW DELHI: National Human Rights Commission on Friday told the Supreme Court that the pitiable condition of migrant workers during lockdown could have been avoided had successive governments not failed to implement in letter and spirit a 41-year-old law, Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act.
NHRC through advocate Mohit Paul submitted an application listing out 10 short term and 10 long term measures to ameliorate condition of migrant workers and said implementation of these suggestions would go a long way in avoiding such situations in future disasters like present pandemic.
As a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhan, S K Kaul and M R Shah allowed only NHRC to intervene in the suo motu proceedings initiated by the court on migrant workers, senior advocate Basava Prabhu Patilsaid the 1979 law was "enacted to regulate employment of inter-state migrant workmen and to provide for their conditions of service and matters connected thereto so as to prevent exploitation of inter-state workmen by contractors and to ensure fair and decent conditions of employment."
NHRC said, "The Act requires that all establishments hiring inter-state migrants to be registered and contractors who recruit such workmen be licensed. Under the Act migrant workers were entitled to wages similar to other workmen, displacement allowance, journey allowance and payment of wages during the period of journey for the migrant workers. The hardships faced by the migrant workers during the lockdown clearly shows that the act was never implemented in its true spirit."
In line with SC's loud thinking during the proceedings, NHRC said, "to estimate the in-flow of migrant workers, states should collect the data of migrant workers at the point of departure in the originating State as well on arrival in the destination States. This will help States to effectively plan quarantine and relief measures for the migrant workers."
It said, states should be directed to identify the industry in which the migrant labour is working i.e construction, agriculture, brick kiln, etc. This identification will aid the state in creating schemes for the migrant workers and in the preparation of a state-wide and nation- wide database, it said.
"States should be directed to take steps for the support of migrant workers, similar to the steps taken by Odisha which has set up a toll-free Shramik (labour forceRead More – Source