Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Wednesday disposed of a plea, on the very first hearing, that sought eradication of bonded labour and mitigation of the crisis faced by migrant daily workers in view of the pandemic situation.
Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul while disposing of the plea, filed by a non-governmental organisation through Advocate Syed Musaib, asked them to move a representation before the authorities concerned for consideration of the matter.
When the matter was taken up, Advocate General D C Raina submitted before court that the petitioner NGO be allowed to approach the authorities with a representation and the same will be considered within a stipulated time.
The petitioner had sought compulsory registration of all interstate migrant workers and wages to them, besides proper conditions of service, displacement allowance, journey allowance and other facilities.
It was submitted that the deaths caused by starvation will be much more than the deaths due to the virus.
“A severe humanitarian crisis is unfolding as workers are stranded without any food, shelter or means to go back home,” the plea added.
The court was told that the daily wagers and migrant workers find themselves stranded again with no source of income, limited opportunity for movement, and no assistance from the government.
“The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 is the principal legislation for migrant workers. This Act was legislated to prevent the exploitation of workers who would often be taken to cities by contractors. In cities, workers would often be working in extreme conditions and in many cases under bondage.
“Not a single provision of this Act has been implemented in any meaningful fashion ever since its enactment. No record is ever maintained of the transportation of migrant workers from one state to other. This leads to situation of bondage of migrant workers and encourages trafficking in many states”, reads the petition.
“The non-implementation of the Act has serious impact on the children of migrant workers. They are also forced into child labour at the sites, where their parents are engaged. Such practices are rampant in industries like brick kiln, agriculture, factories etc. In absence of social protections, they are deprived of education, medical care and shelter, basic human rights requirements. The non-implementation of the Act also has severe impact on female migrant workers. 92% of the 20 million domestic workers in the country are women and children, and 20% of these females are under 14 years of age”, reads the petition.
It was added that the majority of inter-district and inter-state migrants are illiterate and belong to the poorest sections of society and the intermediaries often exploit their helplessness by giving certain advance payments and forcing them into a kind of bondage.
Further the court was informed that it is the duty of the Respondents to register all establishments and license all contractors under sections 4 and 7 respectively of The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, ensure that registers and records are maintained with all the details of the inter-state migrant workers under section 23 and to issue to every workmen a UAN Card and a UI Card containing full details as set out in para 68 of the Report of the Working Group ofand capable of being used nationwide, and thereafter extend the social service scheme mentioned in the 2 statutes to all migrant labourers.