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Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979

Topics Covered: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979

What to study?

For Prelims: Key provisions.

For Mains: Significance of the legislation and its need for implementation now, challenges faced by migrants and ways to address them.

Context: Following the novel coronavirus pandemic, the nationwide lockdown announced on March 24 at short notice has caused immense distress to migrant workers around the country.

Those working in the field of labour welfare have recalled the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979 to regulate the employment and working conditions of inter-State migrants, but feel that the lack of serious implementation has led to their rights being ignored.

Key provisions of the Act:

  1. The Act seeks to regulate the employment of inter-State migrants and their conditions of service.
  2. It envisages a system of registration of such establishments.
  3. The principal employer is prohibited from employing inter-State workmen without a certificate of registration from the relevant authority.
  4. The law also lays down that every contractor who recruits workmen from one State for deployment in another State should obtain a licence to do so.
  5. Contractors are bound by certain conditions. These include committing them to providing terms and conditions of the agreement or any other arrangement on the basis of which they recruit workers.

Applicability of the law:

  • It is applicable to every establishment that employs five or more migrant workmen from other States; or if it had employed five or more such workmen on any day in the preceding 12 months.
  • It is also applicable to contractors who employed a similar number of inter-State workmen.
  • The Act would apply regardless of whether the five or more workmen were in addition to others employed in the establishment or by the contractors.

Beneficial provisions for inter-State migrants:

  • Registration of establishments employing inter-State workers creates a system of accountability and acts as the first layer of formalising the utilisation of their labour.
  • It helps the government keep track of the number of workers employed and provides a legal basis for regulating their conditions of service.
  • The wage rates, holidays, hours of work and other conditions of service of an inter-State migrant workman shall be the same as those extended to other workmen in the same establishment, if the nature of their work is similar.

Attempts to reform:

As part of the present regime’s efforts towards consolidating and reforming labour law, a Bill has been introduced in Parliament called the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019. The proposed code seeks to merge 13 labour laws into a single piece of legislation. The Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, is one of them.

Concerns and criticisms surrounding the new code:

  • Activists fear that specific safeguards given to migrant workers may be lost as a result of the consolidation in the new code.
  • The attempt to consolidate laws relating to occupational safety, health and working conditions means that many separate laws concerning various kinds of workers and labourers will have to be repealed.
  • Regarding inter-State migrant workers, the Act includes them in the definition of ‘contract labour’.
  • At the same time, an inter-State migrant worker is also separately defined as a person recruited either by an employer or a contractor for an establishment situated in another State.

Need of the hour:

Even though the Code seeks to preserve many of the protections and rights given to inter-State workers, trade unions feel that it is always better to have a separate enactment. The unprecedented distress and misery faced by migrant workers due to the current lockdown has drawn attention to a beneficial legislation dedicated to their welfare.

InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. Provisions regarding migrant labourers in the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019, how are they defined?
  2. Difference between contract and permanent workers?
  3. Key provisions of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979.
  4. What are the Certificates of Registration defines in the 1979 Act?

Mains Link:

Discuss how the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act of 1979 can ensure the protection of migrants in the wake of COVID 19 pandemic induced lockdown.

Sources: the Hindu.