Towards Freedom…

By Rupal Kulkarni, CEO of Shram Sarathi, a partner of Aajeevika Bureau.

Shram Sarathi is a pioneering financial services institution working on financial inclusion of seasonal labour migrants and their families. For more information, please visit their website: www.shramsarathi.org and follow them on Twitter: @Shram_Sarathi

nojaram

Nojaram felt trapped. A worker in his group had just been beaten up by the contractor for seeking a raise. He was going to do the same that morning, but wasn’t so sure anymore. Nojaram was a migrant from Rajasthan, working as a contractual worker on cooking assignments in Bhuj, Gujarat. Over three years ago, when his father-in-law fell extremely ill, he availed an advance of 15,000 rupees from his contractor. He was very grateful to his contractor because he received the money no-questions-asked and at zero interest. For two years however, he paid a heavy price for the advance…. he paid for it with his freedom. The contractor held him bonded at a wage of 6,000 rupees per month with no increments for over two years. There was a constant threat of physical abuse and when one of the workers’ was beaten up, Nojaram was scared to demand his freedom. No one in the village could lend him or his wife the money and the contractor insisted on a lumpsum repayment, knowing fully well that Nojaram was incapable of doing that.

Not too far away from where Nojaram lives, Mangilal Gameti, another migrant from Gogunda block had a similar story to share. Mangilal worked as a head loader migrating from Gogunda to Unjha, Gujarat earning 400-600 Rs. a day. In early 2017, he borrowed 4,800 rupees from a local moneylender to make urgent repairs to his house which was on the verge of collapsing. He was certain he would be able to pay back the amount within two months, however a sudden illness was the first in a series of unfortunate events. He was unable to work for several months while he recuperated. Since he was unable to pay back the amount in time, the money lender grabbed Mangilal’s bank passbook and Aadhaar card (the only documents in Mangilal’s possession) and refused to return the documents unless Mangilal agreed to work off his debt with unpaid labour. For several months, Mangilal was unable to migrate to Unjha and was forced to suffer the indignity of unpaid work for the moneylender.

These stories are not surprising. Finance has been used a tool to wield control and enslave people for centuries. In its contemporary forms, it is just as brutal, just as inhuman. In informal labour markets in India, withholding wages, keeping wages stagnant for years and denying access to dignified finance are nothing but modern slavery with a twist. These are just as dehumanizing and exploitative as conditions of physical bondage and abuse. However when narratives of financial exclusion are delinked from this context of informality and implicit control, we only make it more convenient for such forms of modern slavery to exist and perpetuate.

Calling it ‘slavery’ is important. Stories like that of Nojaram and Mangilal should shock us, startle us … but somehow they don’t. When I share their ordeals, people often tell me that Nojaram and Mangilal should have known better than to enter into financial arrangements with their contractors or money lenders. But the reality is that their choices are never really theirs. Abject poverty and oppression over generations, social distrust and devaluation of human labour creates a system where choices are not ‘free’. “Agency is not always clearly defined; there is a difference in the choices we make when we are in bondage and those we make when we are free” – a quote I saw on the walls of the slave lodge museum in South Africa that is so pertinent here. In a society that chooses to function only through the enslavement of others, one wonders if Nojaram and Mangilal would have different stories to tell if their choices were truly their own.* And this independence day, I would ruminate on my role as a financial service provider in enabling such choice and upholding freedom.

Foot notes

* Nojaram and Mangilal are both clients of Shram Sarathi. Nojaram was able to repay his contractor with a loan availed from Shram Sarathi. He now works with another contractor for a wage of Rs. 10,000 per month. Mangilal too repaid his loan to the moneylender, retrieved his documents and now migrates to Unjha once again.

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दुदाराम….क्या दिया पिता जी ने

by Dhanraj Jat, Pindwara

dudaram.jpg

Dudaram’s family

ये उन दिनों कि बात है जब श्रमिक सहायता एवं सन्दर्भ केन्द्र पिण्डवाड़ा द्वारा पत्थर घडाई कार्य करने वाले श्रमिकों की लगातार स्वास्थ्य जांच करवाई जा रही थी। इस भाग दौड़ वाले काम से थोड़ा सा समय निकालकर के मैं अजारी ग्राम पंचायत के सारणी फली गांव में श्रमिक मित्र से मिलने पंहुचा। श्रमिक मित्र की दुकान पर थोडी देर बेठा] चाय पी ओर फिर उसके साथ गांव में टहलते हुऐ, एक घर पंहुचा तो मैने देखा की तीन छोटे-छोटे बच्चें लगभग आधी गेंहु की सुखी रोट जिस पर लाल मिर्च ओर पानी डालकर के बडे ही चाव से खा रहे थे। उनके पास ही एक 19 वर्ष का दुबला-पतला सा नौजवान जो कि जोर-जोर से सांस ले रहा था। वह मुझे देखकर के जैसे-तेसे टुटी खाट पर बैठ गया एवं धीमी से आवाज में पुछा आप कौन  मैने अपना परिचय दिया और फिर हमारी बातचीत शुरु हुई।

उस दुबले-पतले नौजवान ने जोर-जोर से सांस लेते हुऐ अपना नाम दुदाराम गरासिया बताया। दुदाराम ने बताया कि मेरे दादा श्री परथाराम के दो पुत्र एवं एक पुत्री थी। बडे पुत्र का नाम मानाराम एवं छोट पुत्र का नाम सोमाराम था। परथाराम के पास 6 बीघा जमीन थी। वह खेती करता एवं अपने परिवार का लालन-पालन करता। प्रथाराम के बडे बेटे मानाराम का विवाह होने पर वह भी खेती बाडी करने लगा ओर पिता का परिवार का खर्च चलाने मे हाथ बटाने लग गया। कुछ समय बाद सोमाराम का विवाह भी यहा की स्थानीय गरासिया समाज के रीती&रिवाज के अनुसार हो गया। जिससे सोमाराम पर भी परिवार चलाने की जिम्मेदारी आ गई।

परन्तु सोमाराम द्वरा अपनी पैतृक 3 बीघा जमीन पर खेती नही करते हुऐ अपने परिवार की आजीविका उपार्जन के लिए पत्थर घडाई का कार्य अजारी ग्राम पंचायत में स्थित पत्थर घडाई कारखाने मे करने लगा । सोमाराम पत्थर घड़ाई का कार्य में थोडे ही समय में इतना निपुण हो गया की उस कारखाने में सबसे अधिक मजदूरी मिलने लग गई। सोमाराम को आज से लगभग 18-20 वर्ष पहले 150-180 रुपये दिन की मजदूरी मिलती थी। सोमाराम ने पत्थर घडाई का कार्य 7-8 साल किया एवं फिर नई मशीन ग्राइन्डर आ गई।

पत्थर घडाई के कार्य में ग्राइन्डर आने से कार्य तेजी से होने लगा। सोमाराम ने भी ग्राइन्डर से काम करना आरम्भ कर दिया एवं 250-300 रुपये कमाने लग गया। इस प्रकार से सोमाराम के परिवर के आय बढ़ने से आस-पास उसके हुनर की काफी चर्चा होने लगी। इस बीच सोमाराम ने अपनी कमाई से हिरोहोण्डा की बाईक खरीद कर के सबको चौका दिया। क्योकि उस समय कुछ आर्थिक रुप से सम्पन्न व्यक्ति ही बाईक का उपयोग करते थे। सोमाराम की चारो ओर वाही&वाही होने लगी। इस सब के बीच सोमाराम के पांच बच्चे भी हो चुके थे।

     आर्थिक दौड़ में दोडते हुऐ सोमाराम द्वारा ओर 4-5 साल ग्राइण्डर से पत्थर घड़ाई का काम किया ओर उसको सांस की थोडी-थोडी समस्या होने लगी। उसने आस&पास के अस्तपताल में अपने स्वास्थ्य की जांच करवाई] परन्तु आराम नही आया। इस पर वह अपने स्वास्थ्य की जांच करवाने के लिए हमीरगढ़ पंहुचा। वहां पर डाक्टर सहाब ने कुछ दवाई दी] जिससे आराम आ गया ओर फिर से सोमाराम काम पर जाने लगा, परन्तु छ: से सात माह बाद में फिर से सांस की बीमारी हुई। इस बार सोमाराम सीधे ही हमीरगढ़ गया] फिर से डॉक्टर ने कुछ जांच की ओर दवाईया दे दी। इस बार सोमाराम को थोड़ अधिक दिन आराम करना पड़ा। इस प्रकार से सोमाराम शुरुवात में श्वास की समस्या के कारण कुछ दिन आरम करता एवं बाकी दिन अपना काम । कुछ समय और निकलने पर सोमाराम की श्वास की बीमारी ओर बढ़ गई। परन्तु इस बार वह अपने ईलाज के लिए पोसीना गया। परन्तु वहां के डॉक्टर ने सोमाराम को टी.बी की बीमारी बता दी ओर लगातार छ: माह का कोर्स लेने के लिए कहा। इस  प्रकार से सोमाराम माह मे आधे दिन काम करता एवं आधे दिन आराम करता एवं हर माह में एक बार पोसीना दवाईया लेने जाता।

क्योकि सोमाराम को टी.बी की बीमारी थी इस कारण से उसकी घरवाली को भी टी.बी हो गई। जिसके कारण दोनो पति&पत्नी को अपना ईलाज पोसीना व पालनपुर से करवाना आरम्भ कर दिया। परन्तु धीरे-धीरे सोमाराम के काम करने के दिन कम होते चले गये एवं दवाईयों का खर्च बढ़ता चला गया। जिसके कारण हालात इतने खराब हो गये की गांव में आई पहली  बाईक को सोमाराम को 40000 रुपये मे बैचना पड़ा। इसके साथ ही माता&पिता के बीमार का खर्च एवं चार छोटे-छोटे भाई-बहनों के पेट भरने की सम्पूर्ण जिम्मेदारी दुदाराम पर आ गई।

आज से लगभग तीन साल पहले दुदाराम द्वरा पत्थर घडाई का कार्य नपती पर आरम्भ किया गया। दुदाराम खुब मेहनत करने लगा ओर अपने माता&पिता के ईलाज का खर्चा एवं छोटे भाई बहन का पेट भरने लगा। परन्तु माता&पिता की बढ़ती बीमारी के खर्च के आगे उसकी कमाई ने भी घुटने टेक दिये। दुदाराम भी परेशान होकर के अपने माता&पिता के ईलाज के 20 बकरियों को 2000 रुपये एवं 1 बीघा जमीन को 50000 रुपये में बेच दिया। परन्तु माता&पिता का ईलाज नही हो सका। दुदाराम की मां का 2015 में स्वर्गवास हो गया एवं उसके एक साल बाद उसके पिता का भी । इस दौरान एक बीघा जमीन दुदाराम को मात्र 35000 रुपये में बैचनी पडी। इस के साथ ही दुदाराम स्वयं ने लगभग 3 साल पत्थर घडाई का कार्य किया होगा] उसको भी वर्तमान में सिलीकोसिस है। दुदाराम की शादी हो चुकी है एवं उसके एक छ: माह का छोटा सा बच्चा है। परन्तु सिलीकोसिस बीमारी से पीडित होने के कारण उसकी घरवाली ने भी उसको छोड दिया है एवं अपने पीहर रह रही है एवं दुदाराम के उपर वर्तमान में 40000-45000 रुपये उदार है।

दुदाराम ने बताया की अभी मेरे पडौसी आये थे, उनके घर मे जो सुबह की रोटी थी वह देकर के गये है। इस कारण से कसनी (उम्र-14)]सुरमाराम (उम्र-10 वर्ष)] बबलू (उम्र-8 वर्ष) गेंहू की सुखी रोटी] लाल मिर्च पाउडर के साथ खा रहे है। खाना बनाने एवं हमारे ध्यान रखने की पुरी जिम्मेदारी कसनी उठा रही है। कभी-कभी मेरी छोटी बहन सुगना की पति आते है] जो की शेष एक बीघा जमीन की पैदावरी का आधा हिस्सा एवं कुछ अनाज राशन की दुकान से आ जाता है। दुदाराम ने कहा की मेरे पिता भी दुसरों के पिता की तरह मुझ एवं मेरे भाई-बहन को अच्छा भविष्य देना चा​हते थे परन्तु पत्थर घडाई के काम के कारण उन्होने मुझ कर्ज] भुखमरी और बीमारी दि है।

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“मने तो ने तो बोलावाई नी दे” -राजनीति में महिलाओं की भागीदारी

 

“गावों से उठो, शहरों से उठो, तब ही तो जमाना बदलेगा
तू बोलेगी मुंह खोलेगी, तब ही तो जमाना बदलेगा”

FEP

Women partaking in discussions at a solidarity group meeting in southern Rajasthan

राजनीति में अगर हम शुरूआत से देखें तो महिला नेतृत्वकर्ताओं की भागीदारी नदारद ही रही है। अगर हम पिछले दस सालों की भी बात करें (जब राजनीति में महिला आरक्षण व समाज में महिलाओं को बराबरी का दर्जा दिए जाने की बातें जोर-शोर से हो रही है) तो भी राजनीतिक दलों में महिला नेतृत्वकर्ताओं की संख्या बहुत कम ही दिखाई देती है। कुछ गिनी चुनी महिला ही नेतृत्व में दिखती भी हैं। विधायक के पद तक पहूंचने वाली संख्या तो नहीं के बराबर है। उदयपुर जिले के विधानसभा क्षेत्रों की हम बात करें तो चुनिन्दा उदाहरण हमारे सामने हैं जैसे गिरिजा व्यास, मधु मेहता, सज्जन कटारा इनके अलावा कोई और सक्रिय महिला प्रतिनिधी के रूप में नहीं दिखती हैं जो कि सक्रिय रूप से जुड़ी हुई हों। ऐसे में सवाल यह उठता है कि क्या और कोई महिला नेतृत्वकर्ता आगे नहीं आना चाहती है, या उनको अवसर ही नहीं मिल पाते? महिलाओं को पंचायती राज चुनाव में आरक्षण मिलने की वजह से आज महिला प्रधान, संरपच, वार्डपंच के पदों पद निर्वाचित होती हैं परन्तु 5 साल के बाद वो वापस नादारद हो जाती हैं। ऐसा क्यों होता? सवाल ये है कि क्या महिलाएं राजनीति के लायक नहीं समझी जाती ? या कोई और कारण है?

जबकि दूसरी तरफ हम पुरूषों की भागीदारी की बात करें तो कई सारे पुरुष हैं जो कितने सालों से राजनीति में अपने पैर जमाए हुये हैं। उदयपुर क्षेत्र की ही बात करें तो जैसे गुलाबचन्द कटारिया मांगीलाल गरासिया फूलसिह मीणा, अर्जूनलाल मीणा और भी ऐसे कई उदाहरण हैं जो वर्षों से राजनीति में कदम जमाये हुए हैं।

सायरा ब्लाक के पानेर गांव में रहने वाली टीपू बाई 38 साल की एकल महिला है। इन्होंने अपने गांव में वार्डपंच के पद पर चुनाव लड़ा। इस लड़ाई में उनके गांव के समूह की महिलाएं उसके साथ थीं परन्तु गाव के दूसरे लोगों का सहयोग नहीं होने के कारण टीपू बाई को जीत नहीं मिल पाई।

टीपू बाई को भले जीत नहीं मिली हो परन्तु इस प्रक्रिया के बाद टीपू बाई को गजब का आत्म विश्वास आ गया है। आज वो किसी भी मंच के सामने अपने विचार रख सकती है। टीपू बाई गांव की महिलाओ के लिए एक मिसाल बन गई है। वो पंचायत स्तर पर अपनी भूमिका निभाने का कोई भी मौका नहीं चूकती। गांव की महिलाओं को उनके हक अधिकारों को लेकर जागरूक भी करती है।

टीपू बाई तथा ऐसी कई और महिलाओं की रूचि और कहानी से पता चलता है कि राजनीति में महिलाएं आना तो चाहती हैं, परन्तु उनको अवसर कम मिलते हैं। आज भी भारत की लगभग तीन चौथाई आबदी गांवों  में रहती है, जिसे बाहरी दुनियां की पूरी जानकारी नहीं है तथा उन्हें अवसर नहीं मिल पाते हैं। इस कारण से भी वे राजनीति में भाग नहीं ले पाती हैं।

“मू तो एकली रे गई” 

दक्षिणी राजस्थान की हम बात करें तो यहां पर स्थानीय रोजगार की उपलब्धता के अभाव में आजीविका की तलाश में लाखों श्रमिक अपने गाव छोडकर शहरों की ओर पलायन कर रहे हैं। दक्षिणी राजस्थान से  60-70 प्रतिशत घरों से पुरुष काम के लिए बाहर जाते हैं। उन घरों में महिला के कन्धों पर सारा बोझ होता है। ऐसे में महिला को राजनीति से दूर-दूर तक कोई वास्ता नजर नहीं आता है। पुरूष के प्रवास के बाद महिलाओं के समक्ष समस्याओं के ढेर हैं। जैसे राशन, पानी, बिजली, स्वास्थ्य, रोजगार व अन्य जो उनको और अधिक व्यस्त व जरतमंद बना देती है। इन विभिन्न समस्याओं को लेकर महिलाएं अपने स्तर पर जूझती ही रहती हैं। ऐसे में वह अपने मूल अधिकारों तक भी पहूँच नहीं बना पाती है। इस परिस्थिति में हम बात करें कि महिलाऐ राजनीति में आगे आएं तो कैसे उनको लाया जाएं। हमारे काम के क्षेत्र में जब हम महिलाओं से बात करते हैं तो बताती हैं कि मैं तो अकेली हॅू, पति तो बाहर मजदूरी करने गये हैं। मुझे तो कुछ जानकारी नहीं है। ऐसे में अपनी भागीदारी की बात करें तो वोट देने तक नहीं जा पाती हैं या फिर वोट किसको और क्यों दे रही हैं इस सवाल से भी अनभिज्ञ रहती हैं।

“मने तो बोलावाई नी दे”

दक्षिणी राजस्थान में आजीविका ब्यूरो द्वारा संचालित महिला समूहों में महिलाओं को उनके हक एवं अधिकारों को प्राप्त करने के लिए जागरूक किया जाता है। इन समूहों में जब भी महिलाओ को अपना विचार रखने को कहा जाता है तो उनका हमेशा यही कहना होता है कि मेरे को तो बोलने नहीं दिया जाता। यही बोल कर चुप कर दिया जाता है कि – “तू तो लुगाई है थनें कई पता नी पडे। थारो काम है घर मा चूल्हा चौका करणा, बच्चा ने राखणा और घर माई रणो।”

बचपन से ही महिलाओं को उनकी सीमाओं के बारे में बताया जाता है। उनके लिए क्या सही है, क्या गलत यह सब परिवार व समाज तय कर देता है। ऐसे सामाजीकरण के चलते अब ये आदिवासी महिलाएं घरों में और पंचायत में अपनी बात आगे रखने में बेहद झिझक महसूस करती हैं।

महिलाओं के लिए पंचायत चुनावों में 33 प्रतिषत आरक्षण पास किया गया था वो सराहनीय था, परन्तु धरातल पर इसकी सच्चाई क्या है ?

जिन महिलाओं को राजनीति में भाग लेने का मौका मिला है उनके लिए यह अनुभव कितना उपयोगी रहा है, यह कहना थोडा मुश्किल है। खैरवाडा ब्लाक के एक पंचायत में मीरा बाई जो हाल ही मे संरपच बनी है उनको समूह के लीडर द्वारा महिला सम्मेलन में मुख्य अतिथी के रूप में बुलाया गया। ऐसे में उनकी ऐवज में उनके पति ने आना जरूरी समझा और बोले कि “वो आकर क्या करेगी उसको इन सब कामों से क्या लेना देना”

हमारे क्षेत्र में कुछ महिला सरपंच तो बन गई, परन्तु उनको कभी सार्वजनिक मंच पर आकर अपनी बात रखने का मौका नहीं मिलता। भले ही महिला संरपच बनी है परन्तु उसका पति ही सब जगह बोलता है। महिला खुद राजनीति का हिस्सा बनना चाहती हैं, परन्तु पुरूष प्रधान सामाज में कथित रूप से समाज के ठेकेदार उसके मन में इतने डर बिठा देते हैं कि वह यह मानने लगती है कि राजनीति का काम उनके लिए उपयुक्त नहीं है।

आजीविका ब्यूरो के अनुभव में यह देखा गया है कि जहां पर महिलाओं को थोडा भी जागरूक किया जाता है तो वो संगठित होकर अपने हक के लिए आवाज जरूर उठाती हैं। इसका उदाहरण सायरा ब्लाक के तिरोल की कुछ महिलाएं हैं जिनकी हक व अधिकार की भाषा सुनकर सचिव भी भौचंक्का रह गया।

एक बार गांव में आजीविका ब्यूरो द्वारा चलाया जा रहे महिला समूह बैठक के दौरान वसनी बाई से पूछा कि आप वोट देंगी क्या? तब वसनी बाई ने कहा कि वोट देइन कई करनो है, वोट लेवा वाला कई मारे घरे लई नी थोडे कूडेगो मने तो मजदूरी करनी ही पडेगा’’ कहने का मतलब कि वोट देने से मेरे लिए क्या कोई व्यक्ति बदलाव लायेगा हमें तो खुद ही मजदूरी करके खाना पडेगा ।

अब समय है कि महिलाऐ राजनीति में भी अपनी भागीदारी जिम्मेदारी के साथ ले और एक जिम्मेदार नागरिक की तरह सोच समझकर वोट दे। ऐसा होगा तभी तो जमाना बदलेगा।

By Manju Rajput, Family Empowerment Programme, Aajeevika Bureau

 

Posted in Migration Musings | Leave a comment

Internal Aliens: Suspended citizenship of Labour Migrants in India

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Migrant workers looking for work at a naka in Ahmedabad. Photo credit: Jyoti Patil

by Priyanka Jain, Centre for Migration and Labour Solutions

In India’s quasi-federal structure, citizenship is a unitary feature. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution lends a fundamental right to citizens to freely move and settle anywhere within the territory of the country, notwithstanding state borders. Legally, citizenship in India is a universal and egalitarian relationship between its people, and of the people with the state. In practice, however, it is highly mediated by various forms of inequality. When viewed as a composite of rights and entitlements, citizenship of many groups remain truncated by their gender, class, caste, religion and language. Cutting across these social markers is the emergent category of internal migrants that work in the vast informal economy of the country, moving around in circular and seasonal manners. Marginal groups such as Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims have an overwhelming presence among internal migrants, highlighting that these forms of labour mobility represent the intersection of belonging to the poorest classes and the most disadvantaged social groups (National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector [NCEUS], 2007).

The disenfranchisement experienced by these groups of migrants is such that their existence at work destinations is marked by a distinct quality of ‘internal alien-ness’ (Shah and Lerche, 2017, pg. 19). These floating citizens stand at odds with two entrenched features of governance: firstly, the deeply sedentary nature of institutional design that is yet to catch up with the reality that millions of poor households are at once divided across geographies by work; secondly, the ethnic nature of the country’s federalism that relegates intra-state migrants (especially those with very different linguistic and cultural backgrounds) to the de-facto status of aliens, who end up living in their own country with highly limited citizenship rights. The exclusionary processes faced by migrant workers are therefore multiple and compounded:

Lack of identity

Though an Indian citizen has the right to travel and settle anywhere in the country, governance in practice is structured to demand a legitimate reason for the person’s existence outside of their place of origin. In a brush with the police, a person from outside the city/town is viewed with suspicion unless they can show a valid reason for their presence there, which could be proof of employment or proof of residence. As Shah and Lerche (2017) argue, this suspicion is magnified in case of marginal groups such as Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims (as majority of seasonal/circular labour migrants tend to be), who face broad-based and deep stigmatization in public spaces and with government authorities. In many such cases, a migrant can spend decades in a city, moving in and out, without ever acquiring an accepted form of identity that validates her/his presence in the city/town, and which can protect them from such harassment.

With the rolling out of Aadhaar, proponents claimed that one of the benefits would be lending a national identity to migrants that need to move around in the country for a livelihood. While Aadhaar has been enforced with the utmost strictness and the linkage to it is very high among migrants, it remains a problem-solution mismatch as far as the problem of identity for migrants is concerned. Migrants do not so much lack identity documents altogether, but suffer due to the absence of a local identity document, which is demanded for access to services. Therefore, the national identity of Aadhaar brings little relief to migrants as it the institutional design of cities and towns are disposed against seeing the national identity as an adequate substitute for local identity, and remain pre-occupied with the latter. Aajeevika Bureau’s migrant resource centres spread across Mumbai, Surat and Ahmedabad find that the only access issue faced by migrants that has been alleviated due to Aadhar is obtaining a pre-paid SIM card! Aadhar has here substituted the need for a local proof of address, though the latter is still critical for a post-paid connection or other vital services such as opening bank accounts[1].

Local proof of address and employment – these are the central problems related to identity for migrants, and access to them is very hard due to the informality or even illegality that surrounds their work and living conditions. Employers refuse to provide proof of employment to migrants as they often hire them off-the book, and make them work in conditions against applicable labour laws. Providing proof of employment is therefore too risky for employers who extract migrants by evading laws and rules for profit accumulation (Jain and Sharma, 2018). Residence proof is also an odd requirement to ask from migrants, especially of the seasonal, circular variety, as they tend to live largely inside factories, on work sites, in open public spaces (under a flyover, by a payment), or in temporary shelters made of scrap in labour colonies. Even in the cases where migrants rent rooms, it is often from a landlord who cannot provide proof of residence as they themselves rarely own the land and are often encroachers themselves! Proof of residence and proof of employment are incongruent to the very nature of the highly informal and peripheral spaces that migrants inhabit (Sugathan and Jayaram, 2018). In some cases, benevolent landlords and contractors provide a letter attesting for the migrant or share the light bill of the establishment that is accepted for some services. Other migrants have to turn to brokers, agents and informal political actors to obtain local identity documents. In this inner world of the poor, there is a fee for obtaining a local residence proof, for change in name in Aadhaar, for opening a bank account and for a wide variety of other barriers that migrants face in accessing their citizenship right[2].

Exclusion from public provisioning and entitlements

Several studies show that migrants have to pay very high prices for basic requirements in the city including food, sanitation, transportation and medical needs (CEPT 2014; Aajeevika Bureau, 2014; Sugathan & Jayaram, 2018). They tend to live in areas that are under-served by government services and are locked into unfair relationships that engage in illicit rent-seeking. For example, it is common that a migrant’s landlord (in cases of rental accommodation) would require the worker to exclusively buy everyday supplies from a grocery store run by the landlord himself, where commodities are sold at a markup! Migrants have to depend on such extractive relationships and markets given the near complete absence of public provisioning and government services in their living areas.

Portability in the Public Distribution System (PDS) has been demanded by migrant rights’ advocates for long now. But state governments remain reluctant to bear the cost of migrant workforce. While portability in PDS has been announced for states such as Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Delhi, the flexibility extends only for intra-state migrants, and would not benefit inter-state migrants (Dabhi, 2018). Yet again, state boundaries remain a reason to deny the Right to Food to migrants, which the Supreme Court has argued to be part of the fundamental Right to Life guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution (PTI, 2013).

The Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana is a significant scheme that provides for portable benefits to Indian citizens enlisted in the BPL category, subsidizing them upto Rs. 30,000 for using medical services from an enlisted public or private hospital. However, linkage to RSBY remains low and even where migrants hold the smart card issued under the scheme, it has been hard to obtain benefits (SLD & IMA, 2017). Not only was the scheme never pushed as much as Aadhaar, it is now being dismantled to be replaced by the National Health Protection Scheme, as announced by the Central government in Budget 2018-19 (Reddy, 2018). Moreover, such an insurance based scheme belies the importance of the supply side of public provisioning of healthcare facilities, which tend to be absent or weak especially in migrant dense areas.

The Right to Education Act (RTE) is another instance where an attempt has been made to extend a basic public service to migrant population. According to Section 5 of the RTE Act, children from migrant households can now enroll into a state school even in the middle of the school year through a transfer certificate. This is an important policy change that should be extended to the ICDS programme. Migrant families in multiple cities have reported to Aajeevika Bureau’s centres that Anganwadis refuse to enroll their children because the staff get penalized if children drop out. These design features make essential, critical public schemes and entitlements antagonistic to the needs of migrants. Making such provisions migrant-friendly requires deep understanding of the contexts in which migrants work and live. For instance, despite the RTE provision for transfer, enrollment of migrant children in schools remain very low. The Act only covers public schools that are often missing in the peripheral areas where migrants work and live in cities and towns. The Act provides for transportation of children in such cases, but migrants report to Aajeevika Bureau that they have never encountered any such facilities functioning in their areas.

The incoming of Aadhaar has not made any of these barriers less overwhelming. To the contrary, it has created a new category of ‘Aadhaar based exclusion’. For instance, in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, many migrant families that had managed to enroll their children to school after many years of effort had their children expelled due to lack of Aadhaar linkage. The families reported that their children were born at home or sometimes at work sites due to lack of access to medical facilities. Therefore, they were unable to produce the birth certificates needed to link their children to Aadhar. Similarly, migrants with existing bank accounts are dealing with the threat of closure of account unless they forfeit a day’s work and wage to go to a bank (during unsuitable opening hours) to provide fingerprints. Other migrants have complained that their fingerprints have been erased due to hard manual work, which leads to a rejection of their identity by the bio-metric system of Aadhar.

Political and civic exclusion

Article 326 of the Indian Constitution provides that a citizen can exercise his/her right to vote only in the constituency where their voter identity card is registered. For the 100 million seasonal migrants in the country that spend a large part of their working lives in other areas outside of native homes, it comes down to choosing between wages and voting. The meagre incomes and temporary nature of their work does not allow them to permanently shift base with their families to the destination area, in order to open up the possibility of registering as a voter at destination. Based on a study covering around 700 migrants spread across 15 locations in five states, Aajeevika Bureau (2012) found that 60% of the total migrants studied (and 83% of the long-distance ones) reported having missed elections at least once due to migration. Over half of the respondents did not vote in the previous Lok Sabha elections, and in case of long distance movements, the participation further dropped to 31%. Respondents displayed greater participation in the local, panchayat elections and a majority of the migrants (especially short-distance ones) reported going back to the village for the purpose of voting. Migrants shared that they were anxious that if they did not vote in the village, their names would be struck off without explanation and they would be denied benefits of government schemes.

Non-permanent labour migrants tend to come from the most disadvantaged social groups. It is vital that they cast their vote and participate in the political life of the country to bring forth their agenda. Despite the critical need to give space to the voices of this overwhelmingly large segment of national community, the Election Commission has opposed creating mechanisms for inter-state migrants to vote (Choudhury, 2015). In the same year, however, the Supreme Court extended the right to vote to overseas Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) by providing for postal ballots (Chari, 2015)! The invisibility and indifference of the state towards internal migrants is glaring even at local levels. Aajeevika Bureau (2012) finds that despite the higher participation rates of migrant at the source, governance at village, block and district levels remain ill-informed and oblivious to the needs of migrant households. Their concerns are not reflected in the local political agenda or administrative efforts, even though over half of the village (if not more) could be heavily dependent on migration as a form of livelihood.

Civic inclusion at destination remains even more distant. The imagination of urban poor is heavily constricted to slum-dwelling populations. In most cases, non-permanent migrants are too marginalized to even acquire living space in slums, and live completely off-the grid in factories, works sites, pavements and temporary shelters made of scrap. In its interactions with municipal authorities across towns and cities, Aajeevika Bureau finds that municipalities are often not even aware of the presence of migrant workforce in their jurisdictions, or are unable to differentiate between them and other groups of urban poor. For example, when discussing the issue of housing for migrants, municipal authorities cite Rain Baseras as a solution, which was designed for the urban homeless and are highly ill-suited for labour migrants. It is no wonder then that the design and distribution of public services – water tankers, public toilets, transportation and medical facilities – have the poorest coverage in migrant-dense pockets, as municipal policies and designs are oblivious of their presence and needs in the first place.

Housing policies showcase the deep disconnect that urban governance suffers with respect to acknowledging and including migrant populations in their design and implementation. The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yogjana, much like its predecessors and urban rehabilitation schemes, use domicile as the main criteria. Even if seasonal migrants spend about 10 months in the city for 15-20 years, they are highly unlikely to be able to obtain domicile related documents given their existence on the fringes. Moreover, the schemes are based on home ownership and do not factor in the mobility as well as the urban-rural dual existence that millions are subjected to. Currently, a rental housing policy is in draft stage and a system of rental vouchers is under discussion, to subsidize urban poor in acquiring market-based housing options (Nair, 2017). It remains to be seen if the policy will be designed in an inclusionary way for non-permanent migrants. Moreover, a significant barrier in such a market-based approach remains that the supply of housing for migrants is highly limited in the market, restricted to very sub-optimal shelters that are dirty, dangerous and inhumane. There is also wide-scale stigmatization against renting to labour migrants that makes available rooms and houses inaccessible for migrants (Jayaram, Sugathan and Jain, 2018).

The urgent need in policy reform is to do away with such sedentary bias in the design features of its public provisioning, but also to ensure that state boundaries do not function as national boundaries. In the lapse of responsibility by states, it is the Central government’s responsibility that portability and pan-India enforcement of citizenship rights is preserved and upheld in policy and implementation. Unfortunately, the trend in state-centre relationship shows signs of moving in the other direction. The ever deepening shift towards labour market flexibility, has further allowed destination states and industry to abandon of their responsibility towards migrant workforce. Prior to the 1990s, India followed the principle of regional balanced development, with heavy public investments in the so called ‘backward areas’. With structural reforms in the liberalization phase, the logic of industrial policy shifted to regional competition. Niti Ayog, that has replaced the Planning Commission, has distinctly shifted from a pan-India consciousness to openly encouraging states to engage in ‘competitive federalism’ (ET Bureau, 2017). Attracting private sector investments over rival states through greater ease of business has become the thrust of economic relationship between states. Creating this business friendly environment in a competitive, race-to-the bottom manner, has further pushed states to weaken labour and citizenship rights (Rossow, 2016). This further entrenches the discursive environment of viewing intra-state migrants as non-citizens within the boundaries of a destination state, and lends legitimacy to the argument that destination states do not have the moral and economic responsibility to bear the costs of migrant welfare.

 

References

Aajeevika Bureau (2014): Their Own Country: A Profile of Labour Migration from Rajasthan. Aajeevika Bureau. Udaipur.

(2012). Political Inclusion of Seasonal Migrant Workers in India: Perceptions, Realities and Challenges. Udaipur: Aajeevika Bureau. Retrieved from http://www.aajeevika.org/assets/pdfs/Political%20Inclusion%20of%20Migrant%20Workers%20in%20India.pdf

Chari, M. (2018). Supreme Court gives NRIs the right to vote, but internal migrants are unable to do so. Scroll. Retrieved from https://scroll.in/article/700175/supreme-court-gives-nris-the-right-to-vote-but-internal-migrants-are-unable-to-do-so

Choudhary, A. (2015). Migrants can’t vote in native place, Election Commission tells Supreme Court. The Times Of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Migrants-cant-vote-in-native-place-Election-Commission-tells-Supreme-Court/articleshow/46901395.cms

Dabhi, P. (2018). Along with three other states, ration card portability is next in Gujarat. The Indian Express. Retrieved from http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/along-with-three-other-states-ration-card-portability-is-next-in-gujarat-5132423/

ET Bureau. (2017). NITI Aayog calls for competitive cooperative federalism in states. The Economic Times. Retrieved from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/policy/niti-aayog-calls-for-competitive-cooperative-federalism-in-states/articleshow/59534359.cms

Jain P. & Sharma A. (forthcoming). Seasonal Migration of Adivasis from Southern Rajasthan: A Political Economy View of Labour Mobility. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Nair, S. (2017). Draft National Urban Rental Housing Policy 2017: Not-so-strong foundation for rental housing. The Indian Express. Retrieved from https://indianexpress.com/article/business/business-others/draft-national-urban-rental-housing-policy-2017-not-so-strong-foundation-for-rental-housing-4664495/

[NCEUS] National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganized Sector. (2007). Report on Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihoods in the Unorganized Sector (pp. 1-107). New Delhi: Government of India.

CEPT (2014). Housing Conditions Of Construction Workers In Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad: CEPT University.

PTI. (2013). Right to life also includes right to pure food, beverages: SC. The Times Of India. Retrieved from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Right-to-life-also-includes-right-to-pure-food-beverages-SC/articleshow/24613997.cms

Rossow, R. (2016). Competitive federalism is working. Livemint. Retrieved from https://www.livemint.com/Opinion/o5IG4ZGWKXRArbnwY6RlkL/Competitive-federalism-is-working.html

Shah, A., & Lerche, J. (2018). Tribe, Caste and Class – New Mechanisms of Exploitation and Oppression. In Ground down by growth: Tribe, Caste, Class and Inequality in Twenty-First Century India (1st ed., pp. 1-31). New Delhi: Oxford University Press.

[SLD & IMA] Society for Labour and Development & Internal Migration Alliance. (2017). Access to Rights and Entitlements for Internal Migrants in India. New Delhi: Society for Labour and Development.

Sugathan, S., & Nivedita, J. (2018). ‘Housing for All’ Means Nothing for India’s Migrant Workers. The Wire. Retrieved from https://thewire.in/economy/housing-for-all-migrant-workers

Sugathan, S., Nivedita, J. & Jain, P. (2018). Settlements of the un-sedentary: a study on the living conditions of migrant labour in Ahmedabad city. Manuscript in preparation.

[1]The Inter-State Migration Alliance (IIMA) and Society for Labour and Development (SLD) met with similar findings vis-à-vis Aadhar and RSBY in their study ‘Migrant Workers at the Margin’ (2017) conducted with migrants from Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh and urban destinations of Delhi and Gurgaon.

[2]Some experiments that have worked are simple solutions that inform policy. For example, Aajeevika Bureau’s migrant resource centre in Ahmedabad helped open 1500 bank accounts for migrants by simply providing their office address as the correspondence address and a letter testifying that the person is employed in the city. The organization’s ID card also provides validity of this nature that migrants use to legitimize their presence in the city. The ID card is now being modified to be more specific about the living location of the migrant in the city, by mentioning the factory name (in case of on-site living), or the name of the pavement (with markers such as pole no.) to create a type of documentation that helps migrants assert their claim over spaces they occupy at destination.

 

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MEMORANDUM OF COMMENTS / SUGGESTIONS ON THE DRAFT CODE ON OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY, HEALTH AND WORKING CONDITIONS, 2018

Authors: Santosh Poonia (Aajeevika Bureau) and Aditi Sachdeva (Sarvpaksh)

CLAUSE / SUB-CLAUSE / PROVISO ISSUE / PROBLEM IDENTIFIED IN THE CLAUSE PROPOSED CHANGE REASON FOR PROPOSED CHANGE
Chapter I: Preliminary
(zc) “inter-State migrant worker” means any person who is recruited by or through a contractor in one State under an agreement or other arrangement for employment in an establishment in another State; The definition of inter-State Migrant worker is restricted hereunder. It only covers those workers who have been recruited by or through a contractor in the source State.

 

However, in practice, this may or may not be the case. Often, inter-State migrant workers belonging to low income groups travel in groups as a “floating population” looking for livelihood opportunities and one or two among them are the ‘leaders’ who bring together the group. These leaders are not contractors but workers who are take an initiative for their community.

 

Every inter-State migrant worker, regardless of the linkage with contractor, should be covered by this definition.

Amend to insert:

(zc) “inter-State migrant worker” means any person who belong to Lower Income Group and move from their State of origin to another state, within the boundaries of India, in search of jobs and

(i)     is recruited by or through a contractor in one State under an agreement or other arrangement for employment in an establishment in another State; or

(ii)    is directly recruited by the principal employer under an agreement or arrangement, oral or otherwise, in the destination State.

§  Important to consider and include all possibilities / routes through which migrant workers engage in work at the destination State.

§  Majority of workers travel to the other / destination State of their own initiative or with support of family or friends, who play a guiding role in placing them at establishments. However, these ‘guides’ are not regulated as contractors as they often fall below the threshold of 20 workers.

Chapter II: Registration
3. Registration of certain establishments. – (1) Every employer of an establishment, employing ten or more employees, shall, register-

(a) such establishment to which this Code applies at its commencement; and

(b) such other establishment to which this Code may be applicable at any time after such commencement; 

         within a period of six months from such commencement or, as the case may be, from the date on which this Code becomes so applicable to such establishment, by making an application to the registering officer appointed by the appropriate government (hereinafter referred to as the registering officer) for the registration of such establishment:       

       Provided that the registering officer may entertain any such application for registration after the expiry of such period on payment of such late fees as may be prescribed by the appropriate government.

Creating a threshold of minimum ten employees for an establishment to mandatorily register has the effect of excluding countless small units in the unorganised and informal sector that employ less than 10 people.

 

Further, the draft Social Security Code, 2018 builds a threshold of “5 or more employees or workers” to ensure coverage for a large segment of the unorganised sector.

Amend to substitute:

3. Registration of certain establishments. – (1) Every employer of an establishment, employing five or more employees, shall, register- ….”

 

§  The present Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 provides a threshold or twenty or more contract workers, with the establishment or with contractor for registration under the Act.

§  Experience has proved that such high threshold of ‘twenty or more’ effectively dilutes the ability of the law to regulate and removes protection to majority of the workers in the unorganised and informal sector.

§  Reducing the threshold to ‘five or more employees’ will have an inclusive impact for regulation and will also ensure consistency among the various labour Codes being deliberated.

Chapter III: Duties of Employer and Employees, etc.
10. Notice of certain accident. – …

(2) Where a notice given under sub-section (1) relates to an accident causing death in an establishment, the authority to whom the notice is sent shall make an inquiry into the occurrence within one month of the receipt of the notice or if there is no such authority, the Chief Facilitator shall cause the Facilitator to make an inquiry within the said period.

For inquiry into a fatal incident on the establishment, the period of one month is far too long.

 

The law should prioritise investigation and inquiry in an efficient manner as it will also have a cascading effect in terms of time to assess and account for any compensation due to the kin of the deceased worker.

Amend to substitute:

10(2) Where a notice given under sub-section (1) relates to an accident causing death in an establishment, the authority to whom the notice is sent shall make an inquiry into the occurrence within one week of the receipt of the notice or if there is no such authority, the Chief Facilitator shall cause the Facilitator to make an inquiry within the said period.

§  Ideally, the response should be immediate. For the sake of practicality, however, a window of one week i.e. 7 days is suggested to accommodate swift action.
Chapter IV: Occupational Safety and Health
22. Safety Committee and Safety Officers. – 

(1) In every factory and establishment relating to building and other construction work wherein each five hundred workers or more, or in a mine wherein one hundred workers or more, are ordinarily employed, the employer shall constitute a Safety Committee consisting of such number of representatives of the employer and the workers as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government;   

      Provided that the number of persons representing the workers shall, in no case, be less than the persons representing the employer.

     Provided further that the appropriate Government may, if it considers appropriate, also direct other establishments to set up Safety Committee or appoint Safety Officers.

By creating a threshold of at least 500 workers to be engaged in building and construction before the employer is required to constitute a safety committee, the Draft Code falls short on its promise of regulating safety for workers.

 

500 or more workers will only be found on the larger construction establishments. Even when they are engaged across multiple sites within the same project (e.g. road construction etc.) The real concern lies with the small and mid-size establishments where safety of workers is compromised. The proposed law should keep this in view and reduce the threshold to 30 workers or more.  While it may not make sense to set-up a committee where less than 30 workers are there, it will still definitely require to be assessed for safety of workers.

 

Therefore, multiple external observers / Safety Experts should be appointed by the Appropriate Government across the districts to assess safety focus on the small and medium size establishments.

Amend to substitute:

 

22. Safety Committee and Safety Officers. – 

(1) In every factory and establishment relating to building and other construction work wherein each thirty workers or more, or in a mine wherein one hundred workers or more, are ordinarily employed, the employer shall constitute a Safety Committee consisting of such number of representatives of the employer and the workers as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government;  …

§  Intent and effect is to bring in the small and mid-size establishments within the purview of the regulation, where maximum compromise to workers’ safety exists.
Chapter VI: Welfare Provisions
24. Welfare facilities in the establishment, etc. – …

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the power conferred under sub-section (1), the Central Government may prescribe for providing all or any of the following matters in the establishment or class of establishment, as the case may be, namely:-

(i) adequate and suitable facilities for washing to workers for both male and female separately;

(ii) bathing places and locker rooms for both male and female employees separately; …

The third gender – transgenders – have been recognised under Indian law as a separate sex, different from male and female. In many provisions under this Draft Code, it is commendable that this finds recognition.

 

However, certain provisions such as the one hereunder omits to include the separate requirement for transgenders.

Amend to substitute:

 

24(2) …

(i)    adequate and suitable facilities for washing to workers for both male and female and transgender separately;

(ii)   bathing places and locker rooms for both male and female and transgender employees separately; …

§  The welfare provision then becomes comprehensively inclusive for all kinds of workers/employees.
24. Welfare facilities in the establishment, etc. – …

(3) Without prejudice to the generality of the powers conferred under sub-section (1) and sub-section (2), the Central Government may also prescribe for the following matters, namely:-

(i) ambulance room in every factory, mine and other construction work wherein more than five hundred workers are ordinarily employed;

(ii) medical facilities at the operating centres and halting stations, uniforms, raincoats and other like amenities for protection from rain or cold for motor transport workers;

(iii) adequate, suitable and separate shelters or rest-rooms for male and female workers and lunch-room in every factory and mine wherein more than seventy five workers are ordinarily employed and in motor transport undertaking wherein worker is required to halt at night;

(iv) the employment of welfare officer in every factory, mine or plantation wherein two hundred fifty or more workers are ordinarily employed and the qualification, conditions of service and duties of such welfare officer;

(v) the provision for providing by the employer temporary living accommodation, free of charges and within the work site or as near to it as may be possible, to all building workers employed by him and for causing removal or demolition of such temporary living accommodation and for returning by the employer the possession of any land obtained by him for such purpose from Municipal Board or any other local authority;

(vi) for payment by the principal employer the expenses incurred on providing the accommodation to the contractor, where the building and other construction work is done through the contractor.

Through a reading of the provision, it is clear that the thrust on welfare measure for workers is limited to large establishments and that the small and mid-size establishments do not find coverage under this provision.

 

Further within the same provisions, several gradings and thresholds have been provided for each suggested measure.

 

This creates discrimination in the provision of the welfare measure and is not a desirable or feasible circumstance.

 

This provision requires a reconsideration of the thresholds in line with the discussion above.

 

 

Amend to include:

 

24(3)(i) ambulance room in every factory, mine and other construction work wherein more than fifty workers are ordinarily employed;

(iv) the employment of welfare officer in every factory, mine or plantation wherein fifty or more workers are ordinarily employed and the qualification, conditions of service and duties of such welfare officer;

 

Amend to add:

(vi) provision of protective attire (boots, helmets, jackets etc.) to all workers engaged in building and other construction work

 

 

 

 

§  Streamlining thresholds will ensure consistency in the applicability of the Draft Code and comprehensive coverage.
Chapter XI – Special Provisions for Contract Labour and Inter State Migrant Worker, etc.

PART I: Contract Labour and Inter-State Migrant Worker

44. Applicability of this Part. –

(1) This Part shall apply to-

(i) every establishment in which twenty or more contract labour are employed or were employed on any day of the preceding twelve months through contractor;

(ii) every manpower supply contractor who employed on any day of the preceding twelve months twenty or more contract labour:

      Provided that the appropriate Government may, after giving not less than two months’ notice of its intention so to do, by notification, apply the provisions of this Part to any establishment or manpower supply contractor employing such number of workmen less than twenty as may be specified in the notification.

By restricting the employment to twenty or more workers, the Draft Code proposes no significant change in law vis-à-vis the current stipulations of law (under the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970.

 

As discussed above, the threshold of twenty or more effectively removes from its purview the workers in more vulnerable small establishments.

 

To ensure uniformity in provisions under law, this too should be brought within the same threshold of ‘five or more contract labour’

Amend to substitute:

 

44(1) (i) and (ii):

For the words ‘twenty or more contract labour’ substitute with ‘five or more’

§  Experience has proved that such high threshold of ‘twenty or more’ effectively dilutes the ability of the law to regulate and removes protection to majority of the workers in the unorganised and informal sector.

 

58. Facilities to Inter- State Migrant workers.- It shall be the duty of every establishment employing inter-State migrant worker in connection with the work of that establishment to which this part applies,- (i) to ensure suitable conditions of work to such worker having regard to the fact that they are required to work in a State different from their own State; (ii) in case of fatal accident or serious bodily injury to any such worker, to report to the specified authorities of both the States and also the next of kin of the worker; (iii) to provide and maintain suitable residential accommodation to such workmen during the period of their employment; (iv) to provide the prescribed medical facilities and periodical medical examination to the such workmen, free of charge; and With the presence of the last word ‘and’, it appears that a provision / aspect is missing.

 

Please review to provide comprehensive list of facilities for inter-State migrant workers before a comment can be made on the same.

-NA- -NA-
81. Permissible limits of exposure of chemicals and toxic substances.- The maximum permissible limits of exposure of chemical and toxic substances in manufacturing process in any factory shall be of the value as may be prescribed by the State Government. These are critical aspects to be examined in any discussion on safety.

 

While the need to push these details to delegated legislation and rules is appreciated, these limits should be placed before stakeholders at the time of seeking comments on the draft code.

– NA – – NA –

 

***

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MEMORANDUM ON THE DRAFT LABOUR CODE ON SOCIAL SECURITY, 2018 Comments and Suggestions by Aajeevika Bureau

Authors: Santosh Poonia (Aajeevika Bureau) and Aditi Sachdeva (Sarvpaksh)

 

INTRODUCTION

Following the comments invited by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India (“MoL&E”) on the Draft Labour Code on Social Security and Welfare, 2017 in March 2017, the MoL&E has prepared a revised draft titled the ‘Draft Labour Code on Social Security, 2018 (“Draft Code”). The Draft Code amalgamates 15 existing labour legislations[1] related to social security and has been framed pursuant to the recommendations of the Second National Commission on Labour with a view to simplify, rationalize, consolidate, and amend the laws relating to social security of workforce and make them easier for comprehension, implementation and enforcement.

Aajeevika Bureau (“Aajeevika”) is a public service organisation dedicated to ensuring the security and dignity of migrant workers and their families. Through direct service delivery, capacity building, advocacy, research and technical support, Aajeevika has led legal and policy interventions in addressing issues of migrant workers. With a view to securing livelihoods, social protection and dignity of migrant workers and reinforce their valid identity as legitimate contributors to India’s economy, Aajeevika puts forth this Memorandum of Comments and Suggestions on the Draft Code (“Memorandum”).

MIGRANT WORKERS IN INDIA: PERVASIVE PRESENCE, UNADDRESSED CHALLENGES

Recent data reveals that there are over 14 Crore migrant workers are engaged / informally employed in India’s unorganised sector. Though India’s growth draws heavily from significant distress migration of the poor, this large and growing segment of India’s population has largely been ignored in the prevailing legislative framework. Only about 8% of this sector is covered under any social security scheme.[2] Given the prevalent labour market realities in India, migrant workers are a disadvantaged lot. The weak implementation of labour laws, lack of coverage of social security benefits and poor regulation of working conditions compounds the vulnerability faced by migrants and impedes upon their right to lead a dignified life.

SCOPE OF THIS MEMORANDUM

In addition to the amalgamation of 15 existing labour legislations, the Draft Code purports to bring India’s entire workforce under the protection of social security, including various classes of workers in the unorganised sector (self-employed workers, agricultural workers and migrant workers, among others), which, thus far, have been excluded from the protective cover.  It is commendable to note that several critical concerns raised in the previous version have been addressed in this revised version of the Draft Code. However, certain issues persist. In this Memorandum, we have reserved our comments only on those issues and provisions that have a direct consequence on migrant workers, which comprise of a substantial portion of the population facing unique challenges of their own. Set out below are Aajeevika’s comments and suggestions in the tabulated format provided by MoL&E. At places where it was not possible to articulate our suggestions in the suggested format, we have taken the liberty of explaining the same in detailed paragraphs.

GENERAL COMMENT

It is heartening to note that this Draft Code has visibly made the effort to address critical concerns raised in the previous version. This version of the Draft Code reflects greater degree of clarity in purpose and provision. The quality of legislative drafting has also seen a considerable improvement in this version of the Draft Code.

PART-BY-PART ANALYSIS

In the following sections of this Memorandum, Aajeevika provides a part-by-part analysis of certain provisions/clauses for consideration by MoL&E.

 

 

PART A: APPLICATION AND DEFINITIONS

CLAUSE / SUB-CLAUSE / PROVISO ISSUE / PROBLEM IDENTIFIED IN THE CLAUSE PROPOSED CHANGE REASON FOR PROPOSED CHANGE
1.3 It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the official Gazette, appoint:

 

No definite timeframe has been provided for the enforcement of the Act upon its passage by the Parliament.

It is imperative to stipulate a time period within which the Draft Code would be required to be constituted. If it is not made time-bound, it is likely to meet the same fate as that UWSS Act, which has experienced significant laxities in enforcement even though it was passed in 2008.

 

A one year period is ideal. However, given the expansive reach of the Draft Code and the ambitious objective to establishing a new system, a two year time period is proposed.

 

Substitute Clause 1.3 with:

“It shall come in to force within two years from the date of the passing of this Act.”

 

Providing a clear timeline for the enforcement of the new law will:

§  accord a clear priority for the government to ensure that the Act is enforced in a time-bound manner

§  guard against unnecessary delay as it will require the government to seek an amendment of the Act by the Parliament

§  send a positive message to stakeholders including employers to be prepared with solutions to comply with the new obligations under the Act.

1.5 The Code shall apply to – 

(a) workers that are employed by any entity within the territory of India; 

(b) worker who may also be the owner or the proprietor of an entity or an own account enterprise within the territory of India;

(c) international workers; and 

(d) Indian citizen, working outside the territory of India, who opts to become a covered worker  of social security schemes under sub-section (5) of section 20 of this Code:

Provided that the Code or such provisions of the Code shall not apply to such class of workers as may be specified in the Part-II of the First Schedule, subject to restrictions and conditions mentioned therein.

The provisio read with Part II of First Schedule (which has not been provided for) does not specify the kind of workers upon whom the Code or certain provisions of the Code shall not apply.

Consequently, there is no clarity on the excluded class of workers from the applicability of this Code. Articulating an indicative exclusion is of subjective importance to the applicability of the Code.

 

 

 

Provide, under Part II of First Schedule, an indicative list of kinds of workers and the conditions on the basis of which they would be exempted under the Code. The proviso and Part II of First Schedule is of significant import to understand the applicability of the Code and thus the Parliament should enact the same under statute. This aspect cannot be left entirely to the Executive to decide from time to time.
2.139 “wage worker” means a person employed for remuneration in an entity, directly by an employer or through any contractor, irrespective of place of work, whether exclusively for one employer or for one or more employers, whether in cash or in kind whether as a home-based worker, or as a temporary worker. Explanation – any worker undertaking tenancy of land on sharecropping basis shall be treated as a wage worker In the previous version of the Code, the term ‘migrant worker’ was included in the definition of a ‘wage worker’. However, there is not a single mention of the term ‘migrant worker’ throughout the Code.

There is no clear understanding of who could be a migrant worker and different elements of the migration phenomena have been separately addressed. However, without a recognition and meaning to the term ‘migrant worker’, the understanding is incomplete.

 

 

Suggested inclusive definition:

“wage worker” means a person employed for remuneration in an entity, directly by an employer or through any contractor, irrespective of place of work, whether exclusively for one employer or for one or more employers, whether in cash or in kind whether as a home-based worker, or a migrant worker or as a temporary or casual worker. Explanation – any worker undertaking tenancy of land on sharecropping basis shall be treated as a wage worker

Explanation II – Any casual or unskilled worker who moves about systematically from their location of home-origin to another region offering their services on a temporary, usually seasonal, basis shall be a migrant worker for the purposes of this provision.

Given the sheer number of Indian citizens who are migrant workers engaged in the unorganised and informal sector, it is important to explicitly recognise this category of workers within the definition of “wage worker”.
2.135 “Threshold” means such number of workers as may be notified by the central government.

Five or less 2.129

“Threshold” means five or such lesser number of workers as may be notified by the central government, after considering the recommendation from the Central Board in this regard: Provided that State Governments may, after considering the recommendation of the State Board, by notification, fix the threshold at any level below that is notified by the Central Government (or specified in this Code).

Uncertainty about the applicability of the Code as there is no indication of what the threshold could potentially be.

It is necessary that applicability of law is ascertained / amended through an Act of Parliament (i.e. after due deliberation with stakeholders). At the same time, the need for delegated legislation is recognised for procedural practicality and robust implementation. But such delegated legislation must be operationalised within specific limits imposed by the Act of Parliament. Thus, an operative band for providing thresholds should be provided in the Code itself.

Provide, in the definition, a band with a definitive floor and ceiling within which, depending on the nature of the provision, delegated legislation by Central Government can operate. Defining threshold is critical to ascertaining the rights of beneficiaries under this Code (migrant workers for the purpose of our analysis).

Applicability should be determined and amended through an Act of Parliament. However, considering that this may lead to procedural delays even in implementing reforms (given the not so good record of Parliament functioning), the need of delegated legislation through Executive Orders and / or in the manner envisaged in the Code, is duly acknowledged. In our view, it is appropriate to provide for threshold band in the Code, which allows the Executive to prescribe threshold within this band. This provides protection against arbitrary applicability and ensures that any variation outside of this threshold band would require approval from the Parliament.

 

PART B: SOCIAL SECURITY ORGANISATIONS

CLAUSE / SUB-CLAUSE / PROVISO ISSUE / PROBLEM IDENTIFIED IN THE CLAUSE PROPOSED CHANGE REASON FOR PROPOSED CHANGE
3.3 …

(g) two persons representing employees to be nominated by the Central Government in consultation with such organisations of employees as may be recognized for the purpose by the Central Government out of which one person shall represent employees in unorganized sector. 

Gross under-representation of employees in the composition of the National Social Security Council of India (“National Council”).

No representation of employers.

Draft Code attempts to amalgamate 15 labour laws. Various representative bodies have been setup to enforce those laws. The highest bodies of these organisations have, in all, not less than 59 employers’ representatives and 59 employees’ representatives. When all of them are brought together under a single umbrella body, the National Council, there is provision for 2 representatives of employees only.

The representation of employees and employers on the National Council should not be less than 15 of each and of these at least 7 of each should represent the unorganised sector. Adequate representation of stakeholders is necessitated on the National Council, which is envisaged to be the Supreme Body under the Draft Code.

Further, given the fact that 90% of India’s workforce is employed in the unorganised sector, it is only fair that the sector finds equal representation (if not more) as the organised sector, in the National Council.

3.4 The Central Government shall, by notification in official gazette, constitute with effect from such date as may be specified therein a Central Board of Social Security (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Central Board’).

AND

3.7 Every State Government and every Union Territory shall by notification, constitute with effect from such date as may be specified therein a State Board of Social Security, for the state concerned (hereinafter referred to as ‘the State Board’).

No time frame provided for the constitution of the Central Board of Social Security (“Central Board”) and the respective State Board of Social Security (“State Boards”) to avoid inordinate delays in giving effect to the provisions of the Code. A one year period is ideal. However, given the expansive reach of the Draft Code and the ambitious objective to establishing a new system, a two year time period is proposed.

 

Substitute Clause 3.4 with:

“The Central Government shall within two years of the enforcement of this Act, constitute a Central Board of Social Security (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Central Board’).”

AND

Substitute Clause 3.7 with:

“Every State Government and every Union Territory shall, within two years of the enforcement of this Act, constitute a State Board of Social Security, for the State concerned (hereinafter referred to as ‘the State Board’).”

It is imperative to stipulate a time period within which the Central and State Boards would be required to be constituted. If it is not made time-bound, it is likely to meet the same fate as that of the Unorganized Workers Social Security Boards, which are yet to be formed in many States, despite the law being passed in 2008.
3.6 …

(g) seven persons representing employers, to be nominated by the Central Government in consultation with such organisations of employers as may be recognized for the purpose by the Central Government; of which, at least one person should be representing employers of unorganized sector; …

AND

3.9 …

(f) seven persons representing employers to be nominated by the State Government in consultation with such organisations of employers as may be recognized for the purpose by the State Government; of which, at least one persons should be representing employers of unorganized sector; …

Gross under-representation of employers from the unorganised sector in the composition of the Central Board and the respective State Boards.

In the composition of the Central Board and the State Boards, the Draft Code provides for 7 representatives of employers, out of which at least one shall represent employers in the unorganised sector. This means that while the unorganised sector comprises 90% of India’s workforce, it is only guaranteed less than 15% representation on the panel of the Boards. This is patently unfair and undesirable.

It is important to note that the total representation of employers has been increased from 5 in the previous to 7 in the Draft Code. However, there has been no change to proportionally / equally increase unorganised sector representation.

Increase mandatory representation of employers of unorganised sector under Clause 3.6(g) and Clause 3.9(f), from one to at least three (out of seven).

 

 

Representation in line with the ratio of distribution of workforce is crucial to mainstream the unorganised sector and ensure that their concerns find adequate representation.
3.6 …

(h) seven persons representing employees to be nominated by the Central Government in consultation with such organisations of employees as may be recognized for the purpose by the Central Government out of which at least one person shall represent employees in unorganized sector.

AND

3.9 …

(g) seven persons representing employees to be nominated by the State Government in consultation with such organisations of employees as may be recognized for the purpose by the State Government out of which at least one persons shall represent employees in unorganized sector.

Gross under-representation of employees from the unorganised sector in the composition of the Central Board and State Boards.

In the composition of the Central Board and the State Boards, the Draft Code provides for 7 representatives of employees, out of which at least one shall represent employees in the unorganised sector. This means that while the unorganised sector comprises 90% of India’s workforce, it is only guaranteed less than 15% representation on the panel of the Boards. This is patently unfair and undesirable.

It is important to note that the total representation of employees has been increased from 5 in the previous to 7 in the Draft Code. However, there has been no change to proportionally / equally increase unorganised sector representation.

Increase mandatory representation of employees of unorganised sector under Clause 3.6(h) and Clause 3.9(g), from one to at least three (out of seven). -Same as above-

 

PART C: REGISTRATION OF WORKERS AND ESTABLISHMENTS

CLAUSE / SUB-CLAUSE / PROVISO ISSUE / PROBLEM IDENTIFIED IN THE CLAUSE PROPOSED CHANGE REASON FOR PROPOSED CHANGE
11 The State Boards, in coordination with the Central Board shall provide a unique Aadhar-based registration service for registration of workers and provide a portable Social Security account, to be named as Vishwakarma Karmik Suraksha Khata (hereinafter referred to as ‘VIKAS’), which shall be linked to Aadhar Number of the worker

Provided that that the boards shall provide all necessary assistance to workers to register themselves for Aadhar in case the worker does not have Aadhar prior to registration:

Coverage under the Draft Code is dependent upon VIKAS registration, which is further dependent on registration or linkage with Aadhar Number. Thus, the Code is making Aadhar mandatory for accessing the benefits under this Code.

 

In light of the on-going discussions and the case before the Supreme Court, Aadhar cannot be made mandatory for availing subsidies or benefits. There is a category of use cases where Aadhar authentication may not be possible because of physical disability of the worker and / or lack of technological reach or no Aadhar linkage of the worker.

Several issues are being encountered in the verification of Aadhar post registration; if the details do not match (which is a technical issues), are dire consequences ensue. Despite this and without taking into consideration the technical challenges, Aadhar has been made mandatory eligibility criteria for VIKAS.

It is a known fact that fingerprints change sometimes. Thus, what happens in a situation when the fingerprints of a worker, who engages in hard labour, do not match? According to the Draft Code, if there is no Aadhar, one is ineligible to seek VIKAS registration. Particularly in the context of migrant workers and poor labourers, this is a dangerous proposition.

In such cases, alternate identification document may be permitted under law. It may merit providing this list of additional documents as a part of this legislation itself. For e.g., this could be in line with the revised KYC requirements under Prevention of Money Laundering norms.

This is most relevant from migrant workers perspectives because most of these are employed/engaged in activities where biometric authentication becomes difficult with latest ‘version two’ registered devises as prescribed by UIDAI.

 

Problems with the Aadhar registration process need to be taken into consideration. In the interim and / or as an on-going measure, other forms of existing identification proofs like Voter ID, PAN Card or those issued under BOCW Act etc., should be allowed to apply for the VIKAS in the absence of Aadhar. It is also proposed that subsequently the government can link the VIKAS ID to Aadhar when once verified and available.

Also, in case of bio-metric data mismatch or such technical hiccups in Aadhar verification during VIKAS registration, such other options like One-time-password (OTP) generation on registered mobile number may be used to proceed with the registration.

Reflecting important learnings from the Aadhar registration process will help to ensure smooth operability of the VIKAS registration process and will save all kinds of workers from harassment.
11.8 If the Registering Authority is satisfied that the applicant –

(a) Is a resident of India; and

(b) Has been registered with UIDAI and possesses an Aadhar Card,

(c) Has not been registered under this Code previously: and

(d) Belongs to the category to which he has applied for.

it shall register the applicant:

Provided that the Registering Authority may Register an International Worker without requiring him to be a resident of India, or registered with UIDAI or possessing an Aadhar Card:

Provided that the Registering Authority shall not reject an application for registration merely on the grounds that such application for registration has been filed after expiry of the period fixed in this behalf:

Provided further that the Registration Authority shall not reject the application for registration, or register him in a different category than applied for, unless the applicant is given a right to be heard.

Explanation: The Registering Authority may conduct such inquiry as it may deem fit to satisfy itself that the applicant if eligible for registration under the category he has applied for.

What constitutes the satisfaction of Registering Authority is not defined properly.

In the experience of BOCW Act, instances of registering authority taking liberty in defining the registering norms/eligibility thus harassing the workers and involving corruption in registration have come to fore. The Code has to guard against such a scenario.

The registration of the workers should not be restricted in any circumstances.

The registration should be time bound.

In case of none registering the worker, the clause should include the punishment and fine against registering authority.

In case of denial of registration, the worker should be informed about it in writing and by means about it and should be given sufficient time for appeal.

This will protect workers against harassment from the authorities.
11.11 Where a worker undertakes part time work in two or more entities and is not employed through any contractor, agency or placement agency, the worker may choose the employer through whom he wish to get registered:

Provided that it shall be the duty of the worker to inform the other employers about his choice of employer for getting himself registered and provide them his VIKAS number.

Most of the workers, especially migrant workers and domestic workers, are not educated enough to get them registered with the authority.

The worker working in one entity also needs social security with respect to health, accidents, old age pension etc.

Provide for duty of employer to help part-time worker registration of worker with the authority.

Even if a part-time worker is working with a single entity, he should be allowed to register with the authority.

The accountability to provide for the social security of the worker, even if it is a part-time worker, should be shared by all employers of the part-time workers.
18.2 The facilitation centres may collect such transaction charges as may be fixed by the State Board for delivery of services:

Provided that the transaction charges shall not be more than such limits as may be fixed by the Central Board through by-laws.

Social security of worker is a matter of entitlement. Clause 135.1 under Part Q (Compliance) clearly provides that:

Subject to the provisions of this Code, every worker shall have the right for coverage under the Social Security System provided under this Code and scheme members and their families shall have access to clear, simple and timely information on the operation of the program.”

For all workers, particularly the vast majority of poor and migrant workers, subjecting them to the proposed transaction charge is in the nature of creating a fetter on their right. It is an additional burden, like a tax and must be done away with.

Further, administrative charges are proposed to be levied on the contributions made to the funds. The State exchequer should bear the costs of facilitation or apportion the same from the Administrative Fund or Social Security Fund.

At the most, a one-time minimum charge may be taken from workers.

Provided that, there should be no transaction charges for the workers receiving wages lower than minimum wages.

Social security coverage is a matter of right and entitlement. To secure these services by paying a transaction charge violates the spirit of the right / like a tax on the right.

It will motivate poor workers to register with the authority for social security.

 

PART D: FUNDS AND SCHEMES

CLAUSE / SUB-CLAUSE / PROVISO ISSUE / PROBLEM IDENTIFIED IN THE CLAUSE PROPOSED CHANGE REASON FOR PROPOSED CHANGE
27.4 If the Commissioner is satisfied that the benefits under this Code are being misused by a member or a group of members, then the Commissioner may, by order, disentitle such persons from such of the benefits as it thinks fit:

Provided that no such order shall be passed unless a reasonable opportunity of being heard is given to the concerned factory or establishment, members and the trade unions registered under the Trade Unions Act, 1926 (16 of 1926) having members in the factory or establishment.

What constitutes the satisfaction of Commissioner and what amounts to ‘misuse’ under the provision is unclear.

 

 

 

Provide clarity on aspects that would be considered a misuse under this provision. Migrant workers are a distressed and largely uneducated lot. What they, unseemingly, undertake and if that construed as misuse would amount to their disentitlement and effectively take the protection away from them.

PART F: OBLIGATIONS

CLAUSE / SUB-CLAUSE / PROVISO ISSUE / PROBLEM IDENTIFIED IN THE CLAUSE PROPOSED CHANGE REASON FOR PROPOSED CHANGE
38.2 Every –

(a) Employer; and 

(b) Own account worker except those who ,are classified in Socio-Economic Category – III or Socio-Economic Category – IV

shall, pay to the State board, along with the contribution payable, and in the same manner in which the contribution is paid, administrative charge of such percentage of the total contribution due and payable, as may be prescribed:

provided that the administrative charges shall not exceed five percent of total contribution due and payable.

Explanation- “total contribution” means the sum of employer’s and employee’s contribution due and payable in respect of workers.

At a ceiling of 5% administrative charge on the total contribution, the cost is potentially prohibitive for a employers and self-employed workers in the unorganised sector. Rationalise and provide a reasonable lower ceiling. The cost of compliance has to be rational, affordable and sustainable for the mechanism to work effectively.
42.1 Any person other than individual or Hindu Undivided Family responsible for paying any sum to any works contractor for carrying out any works contract in pursuance of a contract between the said person and the works contractor  shall, at the time of credit of such sum to the account of the works contractor or at the time of payment thereof in cash or by issue of a cheque or draft or by any other mode, whichever is earlier, deduct an amount equal to 

(a) Twenty five per cent of the value of the cost towards labour, in case labour component is invoiced separately; or

(b) four percent of the whole of invoice value payable to the works contractor, in case the labour component is not invoiced separately.

Provided that no deduction shall be made from the amount of any sum credited or paid or likely to be credited or paid to the account of, or to, the works contractor, if the value of the works contract does not exceed such amount as may be  stipulated.

Explanation 1- If multiple works contracts are executed for performing a single work, they shall be clubbed together to determine liability of deduction and payment of contribution at source.

Explanation 2: For removal of doubts, all establishments awarding works contract to any works contractor will be required to deduct contribution at source.

A 25% deduction at source of value of labour for work done by a works contractor appears prohibitive. Contributions proposed under other provisions of the Code do not exceed 20%. Rationalise and reduce percentage of source deduction from value of labour cost component. This will make contributions affordable for the works contractor and allow him to have liquidity, which in some cases, will enable percolation even to poor labourers/workers.

 

PART H: MATERNITY BENEFITS

This Draft Code should provide for linkages with the National Food Security Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act as this Part H of the Draft Code is closely connected with some of the benefits provided thereunder.

PART I: EMPLOYEE COMPENSATION

CLAUSE / SUB-CLAUSE / PROVISO ISSUE / PROBLEM IDENTIFIED IN THE CLAUSE PROPOSED CHANGE REASON FOR PROPOSED CHANGE
63.1 Subject to the provisions of this Chapter, the amount of compensation shall be as specified in the following table, namely :—

(a) where death results from the injury  (a) an amount equal to fifty per cent of the benefit wage wages of the deceased person multiplied by the relevant factor, or  

(b) such amount as may be prescribed,   whichever is more;

A scrutiny of the Draft Code reveals that the quantum of compensation payable to the person who sustained employment injury has been reduced from existing quantum: Draft Code assures only 50% as per the EC Act and not 90% as per the ESI Act (Rule 57(3) under the ESI (Central) Rules, 1950)

Further, the provision of benefit has been left-ended for determination by the Executive. The use of the phrase “whichever is more” in Clause 63(1)(a) and (b) which has indicates that the Executive is at liberty to increase or decrease the rate of Dependant’s Benefit.

The reason for this reduction has also not been made available to the public.

Reflect the quantum of benefit of Dependants’ Benefit (90%) as per the ESI (Central Rules) to the Draft Code.

 

 

Imperative to ensure optimum benefit to workers and one, which is no manner, is less than what is presently guaranteed by law.
SUGGESTED NEW PROVISION The Code not have any provision similar to Reg. 103 (B) (2) to enable a retired insured person and his spouse to have medical cover forever on payment of Rs. 120 per month.   The social security cover should optimally exist not just for the working life (productive period) of the worker but also for the duration of his lifetime (post retirement).
64 Distribution of compensation.

The continuation of the present 90% of wages (roughly) as Dependants’ Benefit is not assured. Reinstate present protection under law Imperative to ensure optimum benefit to workers and one, which is no manner, is less than what is presently guaranteed by law.

 

PART J: SICKNESS BENEFITS AND MEDICAL BENEFITS

CLAUSE / SUB-CLAUSE / PROVISO ISSUE / PROBLEM IDENTIFIED IN THE CLAUSE PROPOSED CHANGE REASON FOR PROPOSED CHANGE
80.1 The qualification of a member to claim sickness benefits, the conditions subject to which such benefit may be given, the rates and period thereof shall be such as may be specified in the Sickness Benefit Scheme framed under sub-section (1) of Section 24 When the ESIC provides about 70% of the wages as Sickness Benefit for 91 days in two consequent contribution periods, the Labour Code maintains total silence about the period and quantum of Sickness benefits and left it for the decision through Subordinate Legislation. Code should provide details about the benefit schemes in terms of contribution and quantum of benefit envisaged. Imperative to ensure optimum benefit to workers and one, which is no manner, is less than what is presently guaranteed by law.

 

PART K: INTERMEDIATE AGENCIES

CLAUSE / SUB-CLAUSE / PROVISO ISSUE / PROBLEM IDENTIFIED IN THE CLAUSE PROPOSED CHANGE REASON FOR PROPOSED CHANGE
88.1 The Director General may, by granting a License under this Code, permit any organization or person to act as an intermediate agency for all or any of the following purposes :

TYPE OF INTERMEDIATE AGENCY FOR THE PURPOSES OF
(a) Fund Manager Agency management of accumulations in a social security fund in accordance with the regulations;
(b) Point of Presence Agency receiving contributions and instructions and transmitting them to the Trustee Bank or Record keeping agency;
(c) Service Delivery Agency providing any service to the members of the schemes;
(d) Benefit Disbursement Agency paying out benefits to the members;
(e) Record Keeping Agency Receiving instructions from members, transmitting instructions to board and fund manager;
(f) Facilitation Agencies To augment  the registration process, dissemination of information to the stakeholders, increase public awareness and outreach

Provided that the Intermediate agencies shall also discharge such duties and perform such functions, as may be assigned to it under the conditions of License and as may be stipulated.

Code envisages a lot of interaction with the Intermediate Agencies by the State Boards. There needs to be a reconsideration of the extent to which this aspect can be delegated to subordinate legislation.

By empowering the Director-General to grant licenses, there appears to be a watering-down of accountability as far as the Intermediate Agencies are concerned. On the lines of a PPP model, it is feared that a State function is being commercialised, especially when the checks and balances have not been built within the Code and left to be determined at a later stage through subordinate legislations of various kinds.

 

Provide framework and eligibility criteria for Intermediate Agencies build in limits and check and balances and bring the Agencies under the ambit of RTI Act. These details are imperative to establish accountability fo Intermediate Agencies under the Code. Will these Agencies be made public authorities amenable to the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005, the way the authorities under all the 15 enactments have become answerable under the RTI Act?
88.3 An Intermediate Agency shall function in accordance with the terms of its License and the Regulations.

AND

88.4 No intermediate agency, to the extent regulated under this Code, shall commence any activity relating to a social security scheme except under and in accordance with the conditions of a License by the Central Board in accordance with the provisions of this Code and the Regulations.

AND

88.6 The Director General may, after considering the application and subject to such terms and conditions as it may specify, grant a License as an intermediate agency for the purpose specified in the license.

It is unclear what the terms of its License and the Regulations could potentially stipulate. The functioning of the Intermediary Agency mechanism is hinged on this and there is no ascertaining how and on what basis they will function. This can potentially jeopardise the proposed mechanism. Place subordinate legislations before public or provide basic conditions on which the Licence is purported to be granted.

 

 

Public must be informed of the concept and intricacies of these Agencies-system, and the contents of the Schemes proposed on all the Social Security benefits. Because, that alone would provide a holistic view of the ‘reforms’ proposed. Because, that alone would make the people know about the real and consequential effect of the proposed Code.

 

 

[1] The 15 existing labour legislations amalgamated under the Code are: (1) Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 (“BOCWA”); (2) Building and Other Construction Workers Cess Act, 1996; (3) Bidi Workers’ Welfare Fund Act, 1977; (4) Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981; (5)   Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923 (“EC Act”); (6) Employee Provident Fund Act, 1952; (7) Employees State Insurance Act, 1948 (“ESI Act”); (8) Iron Ore Mines, Manganese Ore Mines and Chrome Ore Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1976; (9) Limestone and Dolomite Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1972; (10) Maternity Benefit Act, 1961; (11) Mica Mines Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1946; (12) Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972; (13) Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Act, 2013; (14) Bombay Labour Welfare Fund Act, 1953; and (15) Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 (“UWSS Act”).

[2]  Data from the National Commission for the Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector

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Stories of Women Home Based Workers in Mumbai

It was 10:30 in the morning when I saw two women walking towards our office in Netaji Nagar, Mumbai, with white plastic sacks over their heads. I initiated the conversation when they walked past, “This must be very heavy? What are you carrying?” One of the women replied, “These are different parts of droppers. We are taking it to our homes to make droppers by assembling its parts”.

They seemed to be in hurry but they had made me inquisitive. I took their permission to visit their homes to understand their stories better.

This piece is based on an interaction with the two women workers: Sakina and Ruby.

Their homes 

Sakina lives in a room in Netaji Nagar. Her room was on the 1st floor and included one structured shanty. We climbed an iron made staircase to reach her room. The stairs were so narrow that we were forcing us to place our feet horizontally along the steps, making the climb very difficult.

It was a 10*10 feet room with a 1.5 feet broad balcony. One side of the room was being used as a kitchen. There were utensils, gas stove and grocery kept on a slab. A luggage bag lay under the slab. A few utensils were placed on a rack on the wall. The bedding was kept folded on the floor on the other side of the room.

There was a plastic mat spread in the centre of the room. Sakina wiped the mat before opening the sacks that she brought with her. She spread out some of the materials from both the sacks. She said, “There are three parts of a dropper but the third part (transparent pipe) was not in stock so I came with two parts and I will go to collect the third part by evening. In the meantime I will assemble these two parts”.

Ruby also lives in Netaji Nagar. She stays on a two floored structured shanty. The ground floor of the shanty is used for many purposes: as a kitchen, bathroom, and a storage room. There was an iron ladder fixed to the wall for climbing to the first floor. She said, “We sleep there”. It was a 7*7 feet shanty, with no ventilation. The ground floor was wet when we reached there because her daughter had just finished bathing there. We interacted while standing in one corner of the room.

Where they are from

Sakina is from Gonda (Uttar Pradesh). She migrated from her village to Mumbai after her marriage. She lost her mother when she was two years old. She felt that she did not receive the care of her step-mother, who was tending to her children. Sakina was not enrolled in school. She grew up performing household chores with her step-mother. Her parents married her off when she was fifteen. Her husband came to Mumbai in search of work after two to three years of marriage. After three years of living in Mumbai, he found regular work in the garments industry, and brought her and their first child to live with him. Sakina has been living in Mumbai for the past 18 years, taking care of her husband and three children.

“I have three sons. The eldest one is Zamil. He is 20 years old and recently found work in a bike making shop nearby. My second son Afzal is 15 years old. He is mentally ill and has sight only in one eye. He does not have sense of wearing clothes in a proper manner. He is teased by children in the street if he goes out. Not only children but elder people also make fun of him. I consulted two or three doctors but his treatment was not successful. He studied till 6th standard. Teachers in his school suggested that I admit him in a school for special children. My third son Iqbal is 12 years old. He studies in municipality school. He has completed 8th standard”.

Ruby is from Nasik. She is 45 years old and mother of five children. She came to Mumbai with her parents who migrated when she was 5 years old. Her parents married her off at the age of 15 to her father’s friend’s son. Her husband is from Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh). Two of their daughters are married and three children are studying in the municipal school in class 9th, 7th and 5th respectively.

Their work

Sakina had the idea to work from home when she saw one of her neighbors cutting extras on the plastic (transparent) part of the dropper. One day she went with her neighbor to the unit engaged in manufacturing dropper parts to ask for work. She was given 1000 pieces of that part and was asked to bring the ready pieces next day. She could not meet the target because cutting extras by holding the pieces one by one was very time taking. She could finish her first 1000 pieces in three days. From next time she started cutting the extras by holding 4-5 pieces at a time. She shared, “It was difficult to hold 4-5 pieces. My palm and fingers used to pain. Holding 4-5 pieces in one hand and holding blade or nail cutter to cut the extras on the top and bottom of the plastic is not an easy task. My children did not want to help me in this work because it was difficult for them too. The payment was also very low. I was getting Rs. 15 for cutting the extras of 1000 pipes. On some days I used to bring 3000 pipes to 6000 pipes. I was the only one in the family to do this work”.

Sakina is engaged in dropper assembly work from last three years. She shared the reason behind switching her work from cutting extras to assembling dropper parts, “Actually my second son Afzal used to leave home after having his breakfast at 9 in the morning. I did not know where he used to go. I asked Iqbal (youngest son) to find Afzal. After a few hours Iqbal came to me and took me to a neighbouring house. I saw Afzal helping the lady in dropper assembly work. The lady said that she pays Rs. 5 every day to my son”.

Next morning when Sakina went to hand over the work she asked her Seth for the dropper assembly work. Initially the Seth was reluctant to give the assembling job, because it was difficult to find people to perform the work she was doing now -of cutting the extra plastic from the dropper. But after some conversation he agreed to give Sakina the assembling job. She assembled 3000 to 6000 pieces in a day. They pay Rs. 21 for assembling 1000 pieces. Her income comes to Rs. 2000 to Rs. 3000 per month. Her sons Afzal and Iqbal have started helping her.

Ruby is engaged in dropper assembling work for the last 10 years. She got to know about the work from her neighbour. She started this work when the payment was Rs. 7 for assembling 1000 pieces. There used to be Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 hike every year on 1000 pieces. She always brings 3000 pieces, “My children are very small. They cannot do lots of work and my house is also very small. It will be difficult to spread so many pieces at the same time”.

dropper 3

Sakina assembles droppers at home with the help of her sons

Payment of Wages

The Seth has provided a small diary to all the home based workers. Every day after handing over the work to them he notes down the number of pieces he gave to each of them on that particular day. The payment is made in the beginning of 2nd month after submitting the work. She further explained, “The payment for the work done in April will be made in the beginning of June”. Sometimes the Seth returns all the assembled pieces if he finds dust on them. She shared, “You saw right? How neatly I wiped the mat. Still some dust will get stuck on it, I do not know how. And before packing it I will wipe each and every piece. The Seth will return the bag even if he finds dust on a single piece. He will ask us to take the bag back and bring back after cleaning them. He does not cut the wage but he does not give new work on that day”.

On some days when I do not deliver the assembled pieces by 9:30-10:00 in the morning the Seth calls over phone and says, “What work do all you women have? Why can’t you deliver the work on time? I said, “You are right, we do nothing. We just keep rice, pulses, salt, and turmeric powder on the platform. The rice and pulses get washed by themselves; they themselves fell under the pressure cooker and put themselves on gas. After they are cooked they automatically get served in my children’s plate. The plates too by themselves get placed near tap. All the buckets get filled when water comes, utensils and clothes get washed by themselves. I do not clean my house either. I have a magic broom which cleans my room whenever it sees it dirty”.

Her husband works in garment unit. His responsibility is to stitch the collar part of the shirt. He is paid on piece rate basis. He gets Rs. 3 per piece. He stitches 150-200 pieces in a day. On some days in a month he sits idle in the unit because they do not get stitching orders. Her husband is usually home on Sundays. On seeing her working very hard on one Sunday he said said, “Do not bring work for at least two days now”. She told him, “I earn Rs. 189 in a day. It will come to Rs. 378 in two days.  You give me the amount and I will not work’. He smilingly said, “Sure, I will give you the money this evening”.

By Nisha Bharti, Aajeevika Bureau, Mumbai

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मेहनतकश मजदूरों की थाली में

workers food.jpg

पंचवर्षीय योजना एवं कृषि विकास

कृषि विकास को भारत की पंचवर्षीय योजना में बहूत ही महत्वपूर्ण स्थान दिया गया है. भारत सरकार ने  खाद्यायन के उत्पादन को बढाने के लिए बहुत सारी नीतियाँ बनाई हैं. इसी के अंतर्गत उन्होंने पोली हाउस, उच्च प्रजाति के बिज और खाद को उपलव्ध कराने की नीतियाँ एवं सब्सिडी प्रदान करने का काम किया है.

स्वतंत्रता पूर्व जब भारत कृषि संपन्न देश नहीं था तब से देश में  पंचवर्षीय योजनाओं के माध्यम से खेती के ऊपर विशेष ध्यान दिया गया . हमारे देश के प्रथम प्रधानमंत्री जानते थे कि अगर इस देश का विकास करना है तो ‘जय जवान जय किसान’ मन्त्र ही काम आयेगा. जब किसानों के बच्चे पेट भर खाना खाएंगे तभी वो देश के लिए कुछ  कर पायेंगे. अब आज़ादी को ७० साल से ज्यादा हो चुके हैं . देश ने कांग्रेस और भाजपा, दोनों की सरकार देखि हैं.  देश ने विकास और प्रगति दोनों को बहुत करीब से देखा है.

स्थानांतरित मजदूरों का जीवन

इन ७० सालों में स्थानांतरित मजदूरों के जीवन में कोई ख़ास बदलाव नहीं आया है. गरीब मजदूरों के जीवन में तो ख़ास कर कोई बदलाव नहीं आया. स्थानांतरित मजदुर न गाँव का रहा है न ही शहर का.जो गरीब समुदाय आज़ादी के बाद शहरों में आयें उनकी अवस्था किसी से भी छिपी नहीं है. वो शहरों में झुग्गी झोपड़ियों में रहते हैं जहां रहने की प्राथमिक व्यवस्था भी नहीं होती. न उनको खाने की व्यवस्था है, न ढंग से सोने की, न ही पीने के पानी की और न ही शौचालय की. इस तबके के मजदूरों के तरफ सरकार भी बहूत सकारात्मक नहीं होती.

खाद्य पदार्थों का  विज्ञापन एवं  बिडम्बना

टीवी पर हम काफी विज्ञापन देखते हैं जिसमें अभिनेता एक अभिनेत्रियाँ तरह- तरह के खाद्य पदार्थों का  विज्ञापन करते  है. उन्हें ये कहते सुना है की उन पदार्थों के सेवन से हम सब कैसे एक स्वस्थ जीवन यापन कर सकते हैं. ये पदार्थ ख़ास कर कई तरह के जूस, शेक एवं तेल होते हैं. वो बताते हैं की किस तरह का तेल हमें इस्तेमाल करना चाहिए. लेकिन ये एक बड़ी बिडम्बना है की हमारे बीच ऐसे कई लोग अपना जीवन यापन बिना पौष्टिक आहार लिए कर रहे हैं. उनके खाने में उतनी कैलोरी भी नहीं होती जो एक इंसान को स्वस्थ इंसान बने रहने में मदद करती है .

सरिता एस्टेट में कार्यरत मजदूर एवं उनका भोजन

मैं यहाँ आपसे साझा करने जा रहा हूँ सरिता एस्टेट कंपाउंड (३०,००० सक.फीट में फैला हुआ) में कार्यरत मजदूरों के खाने की स्तिथि के बारे में जो दिन रात मेहनत करते हैं और हमारे लिए जरूरत की चीजों का निर्माण करने में लगे हैं.

जब हम वहाँ के कामगारों से मिलने गए तब वो लोहे के पाइप की सफाई एसिड के  इस्तेमाल से कर रहे थें एवं उसके कटाई का काम कर रहे थे. तब दोपहर का १२:३० बजा था. जब हम कंपाउंड के अन्दर के हिस्सों में जाने लगे तो देखा कुछ कारखानों के मजदूर एक जगह पर अपने हाथ में प्लेट लिए एक नल की तरफ इकठ्ठा हो रहे थें. वो सब एक ही तरह के काम करने के कारण गंदे भी एक ही तरह से हुए थे. सब के हाथ एकदम काले हो गए थे. कपडे का भी असली रंग पता नहीं चल पा रहा था. अपना प्लेट और हाथ धो लेने के बाद वो अपने कारखाने की तरह जा रहे थे. हाथ धो लेने के बाद भी उनके हाथों से कालापन निकला नहीं था.

हमने देखा की उनके प्लेट में केवल चावल और दाल (एकदम पानी जैसi ) थi. जब हमने एक कारखाने में खाना खा रहे एक मजदूर से पुछा की आपलोग सब्जी क्यों नहीं बनाते तब हमें जवाब मिला ‘हम दिन भर काम करने में लगे रहते हैं. ऐसे में सब्जी ले भी आयें तो किस के पास वक़्त है उसको धो कर, काट कर और फिर कई घंटे तक उसको पकाने का. दाल चावल बनाना आसन होता है’. दुसरे कारखाने में भी मजदूर दाल-चावल ही खा रहे थें. उन्होंने बताया की दिन में तो वक़्त नहीं होता लेकिन रात में कुछ लोग मिल कर सब्जी धोने और काटने का काम करते हैं. श्याम ने बताया ‘रात के वक़्त कभी सब्जी बन जाती है या कभी- कभी चिकन भी’.

बातचीत से समझ आया की कई मजदूर नाश्ता  करते ही नहीं.  वो सीधा दोपहर का खाना खाते हैं. और जो मजदूर नाश्ता करते हैं वो ठेले वाले के पास कभी पूरी भाझी, पूरी जलेबी, पोहा, इडली, वडा पाँव, पाँव अंडा, पाँव समोसा जैसी चीज़ ही खाते हैं. हम सब ने तो देखा ही है की कैसी जगह पर ये ठेले लगे रहते हैं. सड़क के किनारे जहां धुल बड़ी ही आसानी से इन खानों पर बैठती है.  कई ठेले तो नालों के किनारे होते हैं जहाँ की मखियाँ खानों को गन्दा करती हैं. मुझे इतने जवान और मेहनतकश लोगों के थाली में इस तरह का व्यंजन देख दुःख हुआ. वहाँ के लगभग सभी कारखानों के मजदूरों के प्लेट में एक तरह का खाना था. आधे  घंटे के भीतर ही सारे लोग काम पर वापस लौट आये.

भारत को डिजिटल इंडिया बनाने में हमारी सरकार भरपूर मेहनत कर रही लेकिन क्या इंडिया डिजिटल हो इसके पहले ये जरूरी नहीं की मेहनतकश लोगों को इतना वेतन मिले की वो अच्छा खाना प्राप्त कर सकें. उन्हें ये ना सोचना पड़े की अगर वो अच्छी जगह खाना खायेंगे तो पैसा कैसे बचाएंगे और घर वालों को पैसा कैसे भेजेंगे.

By Kiran Sonawane, Aajeevika Bureau, Mumbai

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The afterlife of discarded items: A story from Mumbai’s recycling industry

By Nisha Bharti, Consultant, Aajeevika Bureau

We discard lots of things from our houses on a daily basis, but we hardly think of the afterlife of those things. In this piece I will take you on the journey of the afterlife of iron pipes which connect our kitchens and bathrooms to the water tank. And more importantly, the unseen and unheard stories of workers who perform the important task of processing and recycling our waste.

When the iron pipes for plumbing get rusted or start leaking, we replace them with new ones. The rusted iron pipes are unusable, and become waste. The wastes from our homes, like iron pipes, are collected by waste collectors from different localities (administrative buildings, malls, residential buildings), who then sell it to waste dealers. The waste dealers sell them on wards to other dealers engaged in the business of stocking and supplying iron materials, which they repair and then sell to construction sites. They might also sell them to manufacturers of different types of iron products.

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My focus is to capture the manufacturing of nipples. These nipples are one the items manufactured by using discarded iron pipes. These nipples are made in Sarita Estate, a compound in L Ward, Mumbai, spread over 30,000 square feet, densely packed with 82 factory units. These units are engaged in manufacturing different types of products: nipples, rubber droppers (to be used with liquid medicines), parts of different types of machines, offices of goods transport vehicles and metal scrap. 71 units out of 82 are engaged in manufacturing nipples. The average number of workers employed in these units is 6-7. In the bustling Sarita Estate, there are more than 500 workers engaged in processing and recycling different kinds of waste.

Types of nipples

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Most of the units are engaged in manufacturing barrel nipple, close nipple or welding nipple.

Work Process

The discarded iron pipes are bought by unit owners from Anna Sagar. The iron pipes are cleaned at two levels: firstly, the upper coating of the pipes are scratched by using a knife or thin small sized iron plate and secondly, the iron pipes are dipped into acid and scrubbed by using an iron scrubber make them shine. The workers who perform these activities are new to the trade, and are called helpers.

The cleaned pipes are then given shapes and made into desired products using lathe, landis and press machine. The workers engaged in using these machines are called technicians. There are two categories of technicians: firstly, those who engage in pipe cutting and secondly, those who engage in angle making and thread making.

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Market for Nipples

Most of these units are owned by own account workers. The manufacturing is not solely determined by orders, but remains a continuous process at these units.  The products are sold to the dealers in Naag Dev Market in Cotton Green, Mumbai. The dealers sell these nipples at whole sale rate to retailers selling plumbing materials. These products manufactured in Sarita Estate have great demand in the national market, and are bought by big buyers as well.

Wages

The workers engaged as helpers are appointed on the wages of Rs. 5000-7000 per month. The technicians employed for pipe cutting work are paid the amount of Rs. 7000-Rs. 9000 per month and those engaged in angle making and thread making are paid the amount of Rs.9000-12000 per month.

Though the method of payment is on monthly basis most of the workers are given ‘kharchi’ of Rs. 500 every Saturday for their expenses during the week. Their wage is calculated after deducting the amount of ‘kharchi’ they took for the whole month. The rest of the amount is paid to them by the end of the month.

Precarious Work Conditions

The average size of the unit engaged in nipple manufacturing is 15*20 feet to 15*30 feet. Large portions of the units are covered by discarded iron pipes. Heavy machines are fixed on one side of the wall, and the rest of the space is used to store different types of manufactured products.

These rooms neither have ventilation nor lighting. The rooms appear suffocating because of the heat generated by the machines. The worker engaged in removing the upper coating of the iron pipes with knives do so without any protective gear. Those who clean pipes using acids do not even use gloves. The technicians too do not use safety gear.

Nishant and Shekhar employed in one of the nipple manufacturing units in Sarita estate perform cleaning work. Nishant was holding the pipe in one hand while he used the other to run a knife very fast over the iron pipe. I asked him, ‘You do it very fast, you might have cut yourself’. in response he showed me the cut marks on his left hand near the root of his thumb, and said, smiling, ‘This keeps happening’. Shekhar was using acid to clean the pipe. He was wearing a glove only on one hand, holding the iron rod. He was using his other hand to hold the mug. This hand was coming in contact with the acid. I asked him, ‘Why do you not use the glove on the other hand?’ He said, ‘Holding mug becomes difficult’.

Shailendra works as technician in the same unit where Nishant and Shekhar work. When I met Shailendra he was cutting iron pipes. The machine was kept near the entrance. There was no source of lighting inside the unit, other than natural light. I asked how he works during evenings. He pointed towards two bulbs hanging inside the room. ‘But, the bulb is very far from the machines’, I told him. He responded, ‘That light is sufficient for this type of work’.

The condition of workers in almost all the units is the same. None of the units provide basic facilities. Workers fetch drinking water from a common tap in the compound. There are two public toilets near the compound which are used by almost 500 workers living and working in the compound.

Deplorable Living Conditions

The average number of workers employed in these units is 6-7. Most of these workers live within their workplace, on the shop floor. The iron rods are placed on one side of the wall during night in order to make space for folding beds. Those beds are then hung on the wall during day time or are kept outside the unit. Some of the workers also spread their folding beds outside the unit, in the open. Some of the units have made a platform like structure by using wood planks in a portion of the room. The workers live on that portion, and the equipments are placed below. These units do not have separate water sources or sanitation facilities. There is a common water source in the centre of the compound.  There is no separate kitchen in the unit – but one corner of the unit is used for cooking. The food is made amidst clouds of dust in the unit.

The day we were in the compound, workers had started gathering near the water tap to clean their utensils and hands at around 1 o’clock in the afternoon. We got a chance to interact with a few more workers while they were having their lunch.

Rajendra shared that the food is cooked on rotation. The workers have divided the responsibilities among themselves. Two workers stop working one hour before lunch time. One cuts and cooks the vegetable while another washes the rice and daal and cooks them.

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Despite their immense contribution to the economy, performing the important work of waste processing and recycling, Mumbai’s waste workers remain invisible and under-valued. They live and work without minimum facilities required to lead a dignified, safe and healthy life, while taking upon their bodies and minds, the burden of creating value from the city’s waste.

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Universal Health Coverage: Building a responsive primary healthcare system

By Manisha Dutta, Executive, Basic Healthcare Services, a partner of Aajeevika Bureau

UHC

On its 70th anniversary year, WHO’s global theme on the occasion of World Health Day focuses on “Universal health coverage (UHC): everyone, everywhere” – ensuring that everyone, everywhere can access essential quality health services without facing financial hardship.

UHC is defined by WHO as, “ the full spectrum of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care”. In this global movement towards accessibility of quality health services, India envisages UHC as quality healthcare accessible to all Indians regardless of financial status such as where one lives or how much one earns1. Many discussions concerning UHC has centered on the financial aspects considering the abysmally low spending on health and family welfare (0.3% of GDP, 2016-17 Budget). In the 2018 budget , India focused on providing quality primary healthcare for all directing 70% of its health expenditure under the ambitious Ayushman Bharat initiative.

However fund allocation and spending is the tip of the iceberg. One of the key concerns that looms around is the accessibility, availability of quality health services in the country. According to NFHS 42, three key reasons were identified for not using government health facilities . 48% households reported ‘poor quality care’, 45% shared that no Government facility is available nearby and 41% highlighted the long waiting time at Government facilities. While the Government is seen as the key player in ensuring access to quality healthcare under UHC, accessibility and quality of care in public healthcare in India needs further thinking.

One –tenth of India’s population is dependent on seasonal migration3. The districts of Dungarpur and Udaipur and their neighbouring areas see a large proportion of rural, tribal migrants travelling to Gujarat (about 55%) in search of work in the informal labour market. Members of migrant households who remain in the villages –the women and children are at a higher vulnerability due to absence of liquidity, poor autonomy on decision-making and lack of accessibility of health services.  A study conducted among agricultural workers who migrate from southern Rajasthan to Idar tehsil of Banaskatha district of Gujarat highlighted that no antenatal care and immunisation were received by the sample group4. Thus this calls for a strong emphasis on primary healthcare that is in sync with the social realities of the community it caters to.

Mangra fala is a small hamlet located in a corner of Dungarpur district in Rajasthan. The hamlet with 40 households is surrounded by lofty hills and disconnected from the pakka roads due to a perennial stream running by the village. The impenetrable topography is further distressed by poor availability of any facility in the area.  26 year old Lalki lives with her two children in this hamlet. During one of the wintry nights of January’17, Lalki  was nine months pregnant with her second child. Her husband like many other men in the village, was a migrant working as a labour in marble polishing in Gujarat . On that wintry night, Lalki was all by herself when her labour pains had started. She knew the ‘time’ had arrived. She tried calling the 104 but there was no way by which the 4 wheeler could cross the hills. Lalki was helpless and lonely.

She then decided to call up the nursing staff of her sub-centre Pal Nithauwa, who she knew well having met them over five times during her antenatal check-ups. The nearest PHC located in Nithauwa Panchayat was 15km from her house. The male GNM staff, having received her call left immediately on his bike in the wee hours of the night to Lalki’s home. He quickly assessed her condition, helped her pack her clothes, spoke to her husband and left for the PHC carrying Lalki safely on his bike. As soon as she reached, Lalki was taken to the labour room by the PHC team and 3 hours into labour,  she delivered a healthy baby girl. Lalki and her child were  admitted and closely observed for 48 hours at the PHC. The following day after discharge, the ANM and the ASHA followed up at her home and subsequently Lalki received 5 PNC visits. As her child grew up, Lalki ensured she vaccinated her child on time and completed full immunisation.

The story of Lalki is one of the many stories where inaccessibility and deprivation related to care-seeking by the most vulnerable sections have been eliminated by a responsive primary healthcare. The presence of an ANM and ASHA in her vicinity, the care and contact maintained throughout her pregnancy enabled her to access a timely , safe institutional delivery. Most importantly, realising the disrupted connectivity, the male GNM of the PHC volunteered to offer his contact number for any medical emergencies and went ahead to enable her reach the PHC on time. Later,the subcentre team also took it as a responsibility to speak to the residents of the hamlet regarding community support for ensuring timely, appropriate care-seeking and delivery at the primary healthcare centre. Prior to Lalki, Mangra Fala was one of the hamlets with high numbers of home deliveries. In the same year (2017) thirteen safe deliveries from Mangra Fala were conducted at the PHC.

PHC Nithauwa located in Aspur Block of Dungarpur district of Rajasthan,  has been  jointly managed under a Public –Private Partnership by Basic HealthCare Services, Aajeevika Bureau and the Govt. of Rajasthan for the past two and half years. Apart from a high Outpatient footfall of over 51,000 in a span of 2 years, the PHC has managed 1463 in-door patients as well. A demographic analysis highlighted 75% of patients were tribal and 47.5% were women seeking care at the PHC. It has seen the highest number of deliveries in the entire Aspur Block (930 deliveries) consecutively in 2016 and 2017.

Ensuring quality care has been a key part of the PHC which involves round the clock availability of a physician and skilled nursing staff, emergency management , continuum of care through clinical and outreach services. 49% of the deliveries at the PHC were conducted during the night and referrals ensured on time. Apart from patient care, quality infrastructure such as a well equipped labour room, baby warmer, autoclave , phototherapy machine, defibrillator and a clean maternity ward have enabled to provide quality care and treatment at the PHC. This, along with a well-spread outreach activities like timely antenatal, postnatal check-ups, immunisation, active surveillance of malaria and TB screening activities, community engagements through schools, home visits, Gram Sabha have focused on preventive and promotive care and community ownership towards health.

The presence of the PHC in the tribal pockets of Dungarpur district has enabled to reduce  health shocks to a large extent. For many areas like Mangra Fala , falling within 24,000 catchment population of PHC Nithauwa, the  motivated PHC team has taken a step ahead in ensuring accessibility of the health facility to the underserved population.

Primary Healthcare continues to be the foundation on which healthcare of a nation rests. The National Health Policy 2017 outlines “the attainment of the highest possible level of health and wellbeing for all at all ages, through a preventive and promotive health care orientation through increasing access, improving quality and lowering the cost of healthcare delivery.”  Apart from free-of-cost services, a skilled, motivated health workforce and availability of infrastructure go a long way in defining a fully functioning and responsive primary healthcare.

For India, Ayushman Bharat (a step towards universal health coverage) can become a reality if aspects of quality and multi-dimensional ways of enhancing patient-centric care is given a serious thought and focused upon . This requires at the very foremost to strengthen the entire system of primary healthcare that is in sync with the social realities of the community.

References

  1. http://uhc-india.org/faq.php
  2. National Family Health Survey 4 (2015-16): ‘Morbidity and Health Care’ , Pg 347
  3. Pavitra Mohan : “Labour-Migrants: excluded from Universal Health Care in India” in http://bhs.org.in/labour-migrants-excluded-from-universal-health-care-in-india/
  4. Rajiv Khandelwal, Amrita Sharma, Divya Varma , “Creative Practices and Policies for Better Inclusion of Migrant Workers: The Experience of Aajeevika Burea”

 

 

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