What is the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act of 1979?
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, India is currently under countrywide lockdown from March 24, 2020, as announced by Prime Minister Modi. This lockdown was announced to curb and to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease. However, this lockdown has caused immense distress to the migrant workers in the country. As everything is shut, these workers have no source of income which means-- no food, no security and no future. Many of these migrants are going back to their respective homes on foot from Delhi, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, etc. On Friday, a goods train ran over these migrants who were sleeping on tracks between Jalna and Aurangabad districts in Maharashtra.
Since this incident, many questions have been rising about the welfare and the legal protection rights of the migrant workers. The people who are working for the labour welfare have recalled 'Migrant Workers Protection Law of 1979' to regulate the employment and improve the working conditions of the migrant workers. However, the law is not strictly implemented.
Interstate Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment And Conditions of Service) Act, 1979
This law is applicable to all the establishments employing five or more migrant workmen from other states. In addition to this, this law is also applicable to contractors who have employed five or more inter-State workmen.
The establishment must be registered with the local authority while employing migrant workers. This means that if an establishment is prohibited from employing migrant workers from other states if they do not have a certificate from the concerned authority. The same law applies to the contractors too who employ workers from one state and deploy them in other states.
How this law helps the migrant workers?
1- The registration of the establishments deploying the migrant labours creates a system of accountability and acts as the first layer of formalising the utilization of their labour.
2- It also helps the government to keep a track about the number of workers employed by the establishments and provide a legal basis for improving the conditions of the migrant workers.
3- As per this law, the contractors deploying the migrant workers must provide terms and conditions of the recruitment to the workers. These are-- the remuneration payable, hours of work, fixation of wages and other essential amenities.
4- The wage rates, number of holidays, working hour and other conditions of recruitment of a migrant worker must be same as those extended to other local workmen in the same establishment provided that nature of their work is same.
5- The wages of the migrant workers must not be lower than the wages mentioned in the Minimum Wages Act.
Laws under four codes
Currently, there are 44 labour laws in the country. The Central Government want these 44 laws to be coded under 4 laws-- Wage Code, Industrial Safety and Welfare, Social security and Industrial relations.
The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019 was passed in Lok Sabha on July 23, 2019, and was referred to the standing committee on October 9, 2019, and a report was made by the standing committee on February 11, 2020. The Code is still pending to be passed in Rajya Sabha. This Code repeals 13 out of 44 labour laws related to safety, health and working conditions. The Interstate Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment And Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 is also be included under this code. These 13 laws include-- the Factories Act, Mines Act, Dock Workers’ Act, the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, and other enactments relating to those working in plantations, construction, cinema, beedi and cigarette manufacture, motor transport, and the media.
The new Code (2019) has similar provisions of the 1979 Act. It envisages the allowance of displacement and journey to the inter-State migrant workers. However, The Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has highlighted the fact that the 2019 code and 1979 Act must not be merged together and must be implemented strictly for improved conditions of the migrant workers.