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TRAGEDY IN TRACKS: MIGRANT WORKERS ON PANDEMIC

Author : Nayana James (Mar gregorios college of law, kerala)

Co-Author : Roshini lil Mathew (Mar gregorios college of law, kerala)

 INTRODUCTION

Separated from other Asian countries by the Himalayas in the north, India, a country comprising of different states and union territories is known its great unity in diversity. Each state in India has its own unique charm, whether it is in culture, community settlements, geographic pattern, economic or natural resources. Migration between the states is a major outcome in Indian economy. It is not only in economy but also in social and cultural diversity.

It has become a key policy issue for many developing countries, developing on the state of the national economy and the employment situation. A Migrant worker is a person who migrates or who has migrated within their home country or outside with a view to being in a remunerated activity. Middle East and Gulf countries are mainly depending on the migrant workers from south Asia. Most of them are unskilled and semi-skilled workers. They are often employed in risky jobs- industrial accidents, exposure to hazardous chemicals, long working hours and unhygienic conditions are the norm nowadays.

There are certain basic rights which are fundamental and inalienable rights granted to every citizen of India through part third of the Indian constitution & are enshrined in article 12 to 35 in part third of Indian constitution. Right to equality under Article 14 comprises the Rule of law, the foundation of Indian democracy i.e., equality before law.  Article 23 and 24 gives the protection from any kind of forced labour under the title of right against exploitation.The fundamental rights so conserved in the constitution are being protected under Article 32.

The directive principles under part 4 of the Indian constitution emphasizes that the state shall attempt to promote welfare of its citizens, are non- binding- non-enforceable in nature but, the state is obliged, to secure its citizens with the right to an adequate means of livelihood, to ensure with equal pay for equal work, must provide for the upliftment of the working conditions of workers and the bare necessities of life under Article 36 to 51. It is realized that to maintain labour standards for workers and provide them welfare facilities become an essentiality for the growing phase of the economy.  

Challenges and issues faced by the migrant section- 

The occupational health services providing to the workers in their working places are still on vacant places. The injury, impairment affecting to the workers during their employment period is due to the lack of proper management of occupational safety and health risk .workers  in unorganized sectors, employed in hazardous jobs are forced to live in unhygienic and polluted environment and thereby increasing vulnerability to health problems. While, only a certain section of workers are permitted due to the chance of spreading communicable diseases. The female groups of the migrant workers including children are engaged in domestic works, are confronting with gender based discrimination & also exposed to both physical and mental violence, loss of access to entitlements and social services. Due to impoverished family structure, children are often engaged in hazardous occupations and hence deprived of free and a subsidized educational facility offered by the state and thereby hampers the overall growth and development of child. The absence of strong social support preserves the psychosocial suffering, creating detrimental effect on the migrant labor’s mental health. Due to their temporary status, migrants cannot access various health and family care programmes and suffers from occupational diseases and health hazards. Lack of identification is the issue faced by the migrants persisting for a decades after the migration resulted in the loss of secured citizenship status.

The above mentioned out turn halted to the migrant workers reminding us with the scope of basic rights guaranteed to each and every citizen in the nation.  Indian judiciary has played significant role in realization of right to employment within the content of “right to life”, under Article 21 of Indian constitution .The supreme court of India has resorted to Article 39(a) to interpret “right to life “under Article 21 to include therein the “right to livelihood”. Supreme Court observed in Francis corali vs. The Administrator, union territory of Delhi  that right to life isn’t confined to mere physical existence but includes right to life and human dignity.. Article39 provides for the opportunity for securing justice and non denial of any rights by the reason of economic and other disabilities to any citizens.  While, Article 42 exhibits concern to the welfare of the workers.. Directive principles and fundamental rights should be harmonized during the codification of any legislation without considering directives as inferior and submissive to the basic rights as held in Minerva Mills vs. Union Of India.

Industrial law in India has been ultimately settled as the Industrial Disputes Act on 1947. The relevance of the dignity of human labour and the need for protecting and safeguarding the interest of labour as human beings has been enshrined in chapter three(Articles 16,19,23,& 24) and chapter four( Articles 39,41,42,43A & 54) of the constitution of India keeping in line with fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy. Labour law is known for its administrative rule or enacted laws which emphasizes on the legal rights of, and restrictions on working people and their organizations. International Labour Organization was one of the first organizations to deal with labour issues. 

Recent Issues-A Nationwide lockdown due to the spread of the corona virus, lakhs of migrants suffered multiple hardships, more than 4 crore migrant labourers became jobless. Many factories and workplaces shutdown due to the lockdown, migrant workers had to deal with the loss of income, food shortage and uncertainty about their future. Thousands of them attempted to leave large urban areas to reach their homes in rural India, have been compelled to undertake perilous journeys on foot with no means of transport and have died since the lockdown measures were implemented. They are unable to practice social distancing have become the targets for the spread of COVID-19 as they gather in large groups for basic necessities. Seventy eight per cent of migrant worker became unpaid for the lockdown period and also eighty two per cent have not received any ration from the government.  Almost all migrants face difficulties. Majority of them are unaware of their rights as migrants and workers. Some of the mishap happened during this time(death of 16 migrants in Aurangabad,5 in maharatra,3 in barabanki,6 in UP etc) points to the hazards happened around the nation.

Migration as a Need of Livelihood ̶The differences in economic opportunities in various states made worker to migrate to repay debts, family balancing etc.  But what benefitted has become a trouble is their present state. They are being forced to move back and even deprived of their necessities created a state of silent agitation and complete anguish within themselves.

Asiad Workers Case verdict seems true; “So far the courts have been used only for the purpose of vindicating the rights of the wealthy and the affluent. It is only these privileged classes which have been able to approach the courts for protecting their vested interests. It is only the moneyed who have the golden key to unlock the doors of justice”. The judiciary has not covered itself in glorigy with its approach to the migrant cases. As the cause action is a continuing one amidst the unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the migrant workers might be still hoping for some effective action from the judiciary.

CONCLUSION

The challenges faced by the migrant workers are most common. The study of migrant pattern makes it clear that though the migrant workers contribute more to the Indian economy, they are not in the comfort and protective zone. A concerted national policy to facilitate and promote the wellbeing and a system that ensures access to entitlements and basic work conditions is highly recommended.

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