The centre has no immediate plan to give any monetary compensation to migrant workers heading to their native villages amid the lockdowns imposed in major urban centres to arrest the spike in Covid-19 cases. Even the new Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Code that governs inter-state migrant workers may not come to their aid, as the relevant rules are yet to be notified by the states.
Though business and industry are yet to face labour crunch, the exodus of workers from cities like Delhi and Mumbai have forced the government to sit back and take note.
The union labour secretary had a meeting with his state counterparts last week in which neither the states that supply migrant labourers or the ones which receive such labour expressed any serious concern over the current situation.
Meanwhile, the labour ministry revived 20 control rooms it had set up across the country in April last year to mitigate the problems of migrant workers. These control rooms, monitored and supervised by the chief labour commissioner, had resolved grievances of lakhs of such workers last year through coordination with various state governments, the labour ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
Announcing the revival of the control rooms on Tuesday, Labour secretary Apurva Chandra said migrant workers are free to get in touch via email, mobile and WhatsApp with the officers manning these control rooms for any kind of help they require. “Our officers will be there to help them,” Chandra said in a video statement.
These control rooms will also address wage-related grievances of workers employed in the Central sphere like ports and mines.
Given that the OSH code may not be invoked to tackle the situation, Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder & executive vice-president, TeamLease Services, said: “This pretty much tells us the need and urgency behind notifying and making the four labour codes implementable between the Centre and states.”
XLRI professor KR Shyam Sundar said, “The non-implementation of the labour codes which the government claimed would provide universal benefits and cover migrant workers and informal workers far more comprehensively than the existing labour laws will surely hurt and deprive potential benefits and reliefs to millions of vulnerably placed migrant workers.”
The OSH code provides for an employer to provide an inter-state migrant worker annually to and fro journey allowance to his native place from the place of employment. States have been empowered to provide option to such a worker for availing benefits of public distribution system either in his native state or the destination state where he is employed.
The relevant provisions of the OSH Code are applicable to every establishment in which 10 or more inter-state migrant workers are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding 12 months.
The labour ministry has recently launched field work for conducting an all-India survey of migrant workers. It will also survey the households having internal migrants with a special focus on migrant workers and to understand Covid-19’s impact on migrant workers.
During the country-wide lockdown last year, a little over 1.14 crore migrant workers returned to their home states; however, most of these migrant workers also returned to their workplaces and resumed productive employment, labour minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar said in Lok Sabha on February 8 this year.
To boost employment and livelihood opportunities for migrant works returning to villages in the wake of Covid-19 outbreak, the government had on July 20,2020, launched Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan in 25 districts to provide employment and create infrastructure in the rural areas with a resource envelope of `50,000 crore. No such scheme has been announced by the government so far in the current year.