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Social Justice

Woes of Migrants Amid Covid-19

  • 22 Apr 2020
  • 4 min read

Why in News

The Covid-19 pandemic and the imposition of lockdown in order to curb it has brought the perils of migrant workers into the light.

Challenges

  • Most of the migrant workers are not routed through licensed contractors so a huge number is excluded from getting any benefit out of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (ISMW) Act, 1979.
    • According to ISMW Act, an inter-State migrant worker is any person who is recruited by or through a licensed contractor.
      • The ISMW Act was drawn up after repealing the Orissa Dadan Labour Act, 1975.
  • The Act is only applicable to any establishment which has five or more inter-State migrant workers as employees which again leaves a significant number of workers.
    • In reality, a small proportion of migrant workmen are placed under such establishments.
    • Migrants from establishments with less than five migrant employees also cease to be migrants, legally.
  • The ISMW Act is also not legally enforceable.
  • Coronavirus crisis has exposed the inadequacy of the ISMW Act highlighting needs for legal safeguards and welfare measures for migrants.

Suggestions

  • Repealing of the ISMW Act, 1979 and replacing it with a new Act, or by enlarging the scope of Unorganised Workers’ Social Security (UWSS) Act, 2008 to include legal entitlements, to define the migrant workman as a subset, to provide for contingencies of livelihood loss and to make the Act legally enforceable.
  • Universalisation of registration and issuance of Aadhaar-based Unique Worker’s Identification Number (UWIN).
  • Schemes like MGNREGA, Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) and Ujjwala need to be made portable and extensive.
  • Geofencing of different benefits enabling a migrant worker to choose location-wise benefits.
  • Preparing a comprehensive database of the migrant workers’ source and destination, demography, employment patterns and skill sets.
    • It will help in skill development, providing social security benefits, planning for mass transit of migrant labour and preparing for any contingency plan in emergency situations.
  • Empowering the Inter-State Council, set up under Article 263 of the Constitution to effectively and comprehensively deal with larger issues related to migrant workers.
    • Migrant worker issues have complex Centre-State and inter-State dimensions.

Steps Taken by Government

  • The UWSS Act, 2008: It provides for social security and welfare of unorganised workers.
    • The UWSS Act defines unorganised workers as home-based worker, self-employed worker or wage worker in the unorganised sector.
    • It has two features:
      • Registration of unorganised workers.
      • Portable smart I-card with a UWIN.
  • Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan Yojana: To ensure old age protection for unorganised workers.
  • Atal Pension Yojana: It is a social security scheme launched under the National Pension System (NPS) and aims at providing a steady stream of income after the age of 60 to all citizens of India including the migrants and labourers.
  • Pradhan Mantri Jeevan Jyoti Bima Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Suraksha Bima Yojana (under the Gram Swaraj Abhiyan): Both of the schemes provide for life insurance and accident insurance respectively to the migrants and labourers.
  • Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (Ayushman Bharat): It aims at providing health cover to protect the migrants among others against the financial risk arising out of catastrophic health episodes.

Source: TH

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