Due to the sheer intermixing of diverse cultures, migration has shaped civilizations and economies throughout human history. Over the last few decades, economic and financial movements have exploded in popularity. As a result, governments all over the world have realized how critical it is to recognise labour rights as a component of human rights. Employer corporations' violations of labour rights are a major source of worry around the world. When such workers become unemployed, they face a number of dangers. The current essay seeks to go into Indian legislative norms controlling migrant worker rights as well as international policy recommendations on the subject.
Regulations concerning migrant laborers in India
The right to adequate working conditions and social security is one of the most essential labour rights. In the year 1793, during the French Revolution, the concept of social security was born. The Indian Constitution safeguards the rights of workers. Part IV of the Constitution contains the Preamble, the Fundamental Rights, and the Directive Principles of State Policy, which all limit this element. According to the Constitution, minimum workplace rights are guaranteed. The Indian Constitution, according to the Preamble, mandates and encourages social justice for employees. There are a variety of labor-related laws as well as government-sponsored social security programmes.
In India, the following laws apply to migrant workers
Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979
The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act of
1979 was enacted primarily to help migrant workers. The legislative framework is divided into seven chapters. Registration of establishments employing interstate migrant workers, contractor licences, contractor duties and obligations, and welfare facilities, among other things, are all covered by the legislation.
Payment of Wages Act, 1936
The Payment of Wages Act of 1936 ensures that wages are paid on a regular and timely basis. Untimely payment of remuneration is a kind of exploitation, and legislation was enacted to prevent it. It is also prohibited to impose arbitrary fines on migratory employees.
Employees’ Compensation Act, 1923
Another major piece of legislation that protects all types of workers is the Employees' Compensation Act of 1923 (Including migrant workers). The demand for manpower is decreasing as machinery becomes more prevalent. As a result, the workers are in a state of comparative poverty.
Minimum Wages Act, 1948
The main goal of the Minimum Wages Act of 1948 is to establish, review, and amend minimum pay rates. This Act protects the rights of migratory workers and workers in unorganized industries.
ILO standards on Migrant workers
Geneva, Switzerland is home to the International Labor Organization. Following the Paris Postwar Peace Conference in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed, establishing the International Labor Organization. It is one of the most significant UN bodies, establishing worldwide labour standards to ensure uniformity among its member states. The preamble of this organization's constitution makes it clear that the ILO places a special emphasis on migrant workers' rights and sets rules to defend their interests.
These migrant labourers are also known as guest workers because they are only hired for a limited time. For example, year-round employees, seasonal workers, trainees, and so on. Seasonal migration is a type of transitory migration that is one of the most well-known.
The entry of employees who use immigration services is referred to as permanent migration. There are several types of immigration categories, including family reunification and intensive skill employment, among others. The causes that cause migration are numerous and may or may not apply to specific situations.
However, there are a few 'push and pull' elements to consider, including: Poverty-stricken circumstances in one's own country; A high-skilled worker's opportunities are limited; Higher earnings in a wealthy country; Conflict and oppression; And Political unrest in countries with a weaker economic standing. A worker's migration is influenced by a variety of other factors. As a result, the factors listed above are not exhaustive. It should be mentioned that while some migrant workers benefit greatly and are able to improve their economic circumstances, this is not the case for others. Some migrant labourers live and work in deplorable conditions, utterly ignorant that they are being denied basic human rights.
Impact of lockdown due to COVID-19 on the migrant workers
The country-wide lockdown imposed by India in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the entire country. It has caused a slew of problems for businesses and job seekers. Migrant workers, on the other hand, would be the most adversely affected. Migrant workers flourish in their rootless existence, with no permanent residence or place to call home. Interstate migration is, in fact, a significant phenomenon.
Due to a lack of prompt government response, migrant labourers have become one of the most vulnerable groups whose rights have been obliterated. A major departure of migrant workers occurred as a result of having little or no savings.
The following are some of the primary challenges that migrant workers face: Job loss and unemployment; Pay cut or lesser pay than the already low wages; Immense impact on health due to unsanitary condition of the places where migrant workers have been rehabilitated; And The migrant workers have been living in crowded and inadequate living conditions.
Response of the Government
The lockdown was implemented via the implications under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 and the Disaster Management Act, 2005. On the 29th of March, the Home Ministry released an order stating that the exodus movement of migrant workers is to be treated as a violation of the lockdown guidelines mandate. The Ministry also directed the state authorities to ensure a few necessary arrangements such as:
• To provide temporary rehabilitation/ housing and adequate food supply to the migrant workers.
• The migrant workers are supposed to be screened properly for a minimum of 14 days. The standard health protocol has to be followed.
• Migrant workers should be provided with the wages so that they have means to survive at least on the bare minimum.
On the 28th of March, the UP government arranged a couple of thousand buses to facilitate the movement of migrant workers. The government prepared an action plan in order to facilitate the return of the migrant workmen to their home states. The Delhi government had converted the government schools into shelter homes for migrant workers. The government also promised to provide food grains to 7.2 million workers. It also started an e-coupon service system in order to benefit migrants not covered under the public distribution scheme. The Bihar Government stated that it distributed Rs.100 crores from the Chief Minister Relief Fund. Disaster relief centers were set up in order to house migrant workers. The total budget towards the public health expenditure was Rs. 8,788 crores. The Maharashtra government established 262 relief camps for the migrant workers. These relief camps have provided shelter to an estimated number of 70,399 migrants. The government had introduced the “Shiv Bhojan Scheme” and reduced the rate of meals per day. The Odisha government primarily delegated duties to Panchayats to tackle the issue of stranded migrant workers.
First, the working of the Construction Workers Welfare Board (CWWB) must be reoriented in each state. The CWWB provides social security to migrant workers. However, the funds are utilised at 21% only. This needs to be taken care of; The Migrants shouldn’t be charged by the government for food and train fare; the migrant workmen legislations state that the displacement and journey allowances must be paid to the migrant workmen at the time of their recruitment. These allowances are to be paid when the migrant worker arrives at the host state from the home state. However, it has been observed that most of the time migrant workers are not paid the allowances they are entitled to; And According to the Inter-State Migrant Workers Act 1979 (ISMWA), a migrant has to migrate through a contractor. The intermediaries must be reduced and the legislation must be updated according to the current legislation.
In conclusion, it can be said that most states despite their efforts have remained ineffective in regulating the movement of migrant workers and also screening them properly. It is astonishing to note that even after the existence of a plethora of legislation and labour standards at the national and international level, there still remains a wide gap between basic human rights of labourers and the legal framework governing their rights. Policymakers need to take a practical approach towards the protection of the rights of the migrant labourers as their social situation is already difficult. It is a well-observed fact that most countries have taken a lackadaisical approach towards the ILO standards for migrant labourers/ workers. Ostensibly countries are supposed to incorporate legislative frameworks in accordance with the ILO standards; however, most have failed to do so. The labour laws in India still have a long way to go.
(Authors are pursuing B.A.LL.B from Lloyd Law College and can be reached at email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org respectively)