Wednesday, April 29, 2015

State Action Plan to address migrant workers issues and concerns in Odisha

Umi Daniel 

Perturbed by perennial cases of exploitation & violation of rights of inter-state migrant workers in Odisha, the government of Odisha, Department of Panchayat Raj has came out with a comprehensive state action plan for ensuring enforcement, welfare, entitlements and protection of rights of inter-state migrant workers moving within and to various states as seasonal workers.  A detailed advisory and action plan was issued by Dept of Panchayat Raj on December 17th 2014.

The proposed action plan is said to be implemented in 11 districts of Odisha which is considered as key migration prone district of Odisha. The targeted district includes, Bolangir, Bargarh, Subranapur, Kalahandi, Nuapada, Gajapati, Ganjam, Koraput, Nabarangpur, Rayagada and Khorda. The department of Panchayat Raj has also allocated a budget of Rs.7,49,60,750 to carry out wide range of initiatives both at the district and state level. Some of the key departments which are going to play pivotal role in implementation and coordination of various activities are, Labour and ESI department, Panchayat Raj dept, Home department, School and Mass education department, Food supplies and consumer welfare dept, Revenue and D.M department and the Micro, Small Medium Enterprises Department. Following are some of the key initiative being extracted from the action plan.

The labour and ESI department, Government of Odisha has been assigned the responsibilities to conduct periodic survey of migrant people in this district to understand various aspects and trend of migration. Voluntary registrations of migrants are proposed to carry out at the panchayat level by PEO, EO, GRS. Details about migrants and their enrollment under the MGNREGA and special migrant identify cards were also being suggested. Further, registration of constrction workers under OBOCWB ( Odisha Building & Other Construction Workers Welfare Board), job card under MGNREGA, Registration under RSBY and Biju Krushak Yojona has been resolved. The government also recommended computerizing the migrant’s data and a develop a separate software for the purpose of tracking.

In regards to unscrupulous agents and labour contractors who illegally recruit, harbor and dispatch migrant labourers without proper legal registration under the ISMW( RE&CS) Act 1979 are subjected to strict surveillance and watch by the local police. The action plan has made strong recommendation for identification, arrest and punishment of the contractors who violet the Act.

The SAP also emphasize on implementation of all the labour laws pertaining to Payment of Minimum Wage, Contract Labour Act, Employees Compensaton Act, Child labour Act  and Inter State Migrant Workers( Regulation of Employment and Condition of Service) Act of 1979 and to take action on the Bonded Labour ( Abolition) Act, 1976.

Shramik (Labour) Help line telephone no 155368 has been set up to provide support for rescue and repatriation of migrant labourers in crisis from other states. The ESI Department has also determined to provide financial resources for sending of rescue team to rescue of migrant labourers living in crisis in other states.

The Action plan emphasis to singing of MOU with destination States to protect the migrants workers rights, welfare and social security and establish contacts with various welfare organization at the destination states to create contact points to reach out to migrant labourers.

Strengthening seasonal hostels for children of migrant workers has been in function in Odisha by School and Mass Education department and more such facilities in migration prone regions has been proposed. The dept of labour & ESI, Govt of Odisha is willing to provide financial support for running of such seasonal hostels.

The action plan also goes-on to suggest a range of initiative for the intra-district migrant workers access to basic services, entitlements and running of crèche at the work-site to be aided by the Odisha Labour Welfare Board.

Awareness creation and educating migrant workers about their rights and entitlement has been prioritized in the action plan. Partnership and collaboration with SHG,  PRI institution trade unions, NGOs to spread the awareness and labour education has been strongly recommended.

All the 11 targeted districts are also mandated to create a district level monitoring committee under the chairmanship of District Collector has been planned. Other members of the committee includes, Superitended of Police, PD, DRDA, CMO, DSWO, DEO, members from CWC, DLO ( convenor) and members from NGOs, trade union. The term of the committee has been stated as two years.
At the state level, a State Level Migration Cell has been planned to be set up with basic minimum infrastructure and financial allocation. 

Enactment of the State Action Plan on addressing the concerns and issues of intra and interstate migrant labourers in Odisha is a welcome step. The Government of Odisha has been  under tremendous pressure from rights and legal bodies like NHRC and the Apex Court after number of cases of labour exploitation and the latest being chopping of palms of migrants being reported in Odisha to act firmly towards reducing distress and protection of rights of inter-state migrant workers in Odisha. 

The success of implementation of the SAP depends much on the convergence and collaboration of various wings of the government towards effective enforcement and welfare programme for the labourers. It is also crucial to create a larger platform for participation of the migrant labourers, create interstate linkages, PRI and NGOs to make the programme successful.  

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