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Migrants crisis: Govt of India 'appears keen' to supply of cheap labour to industry

Counterview Desk
The Government of India (GoI) continues to be immune to the issues and needs of migrants, the civil rights organization Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha has argued in a statement, underlining, it appears to be acting in such a way that the supply of cheap labour to industries remains intact against their wishes and rights.
Jharkhand is one of the major states from where workers go to “developed” in western and south India states in search of work.
Suggesting GoI’s intention appeared clear when these workers were made to pay for their own rail ticket plus Rs 50 if they wish to return, the statement says, this shows it providing to be “one of the biggest impediments” in ensuring their safe return to villages.

Text:

The sudden lockdown imposed on March 25 brought extreme misery to lakhs of Jharkhandi workers stranded in different places across the country. Most of them have not been paid wages by their companies or contractors. Even for getting ration and food, they had to seek support from one and all. Most of them are living in cramped up spaces, with little or no money and inadequate food supplies.
The central government continues to be immune to their issues and needs. Neither did it provide any income support nor did it ensure their food. The central government also expects these workers to pay for their own ticket fare, as per the order issued on May 2. The railway ministry further announced that travellers would have to pay an additional charge of Rs 50!
The central government is acting as one of the biggest impediments in ensuring the workers’ main demand – to get them back to their villages. After allowing their inter-state movement on April 29, the government shamelessly issued a clarification on May 3 that effectively meant that workers were not allowed to travel back to their states. It seems, the government wants to ensure supply of cheap labour to industries against the wishes and rights of the workers.
There is also lack of clarity at Jharkhand government’s end on how to bring the workers back. Meanwhile, Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha and other civil society groups have been constantly raising the issues of workers on different platforms. In the backdrop of all of this, the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha puts forth the following demands:

From the central government:

  1. Central government must immediately withdraw both the orders and take full responsibility of inter-state movements of workers, pay travel fare and ensure free travel and food of workers back to their native states. The government should further ensure that private travel operators do not exploit the workers.
  2. Workers must not be forced, in any way, to stay at their workplace against their will. 
  3. Workers must get at least the half of minimum wages, as per 7th pay commission recommendations, as an income grant for next three months. 
  4. To ensure adequate employment to all the workers in their native states, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) budget must be increased and urban employment guarantee act to be notified. 

From the Jharkhand government:

  1. The government must immediately notify a clear protocol for getting the stranded workers back – it must be clearly stated where the workers may register, timeline for movement etc. In addition to online registration, registration through call centre and offline modes through respective state governments must be made available.
  2. For those travelling from neighbouring areas and for intra-state travel, state government must bear the full travel and food expenses. 
  3. Rather than extending the lockdown indefinitely, Jharkhand government must test all the workers and isolate, if necessary. Panchayat and grams sabhas should be provided with all facilities and provisions to observe all rules of home quarantine or observed quarantine. 
  4. Jharkhand government must provide the grant of Rs 2,000 to all workers, as promised, within a week. 
  5. All returning workers must be registered under MGNREGA and adequate number of labour-intensive schemes should be started in all villages. Government must encourage farming and work towards improving irrigation facilities. It must encourage and incentivize cooperative farming and community ownership of land and natural resources amongst the workers.

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