New Delhi: As many as 28 states and union territories have failed to provide the Supreme Court with details of steps taken for migrant workers under three existing social security laws, as directed by the top court over 45 days ago.
This was revealed on 31 July during a hearing of an impleadment application filed by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) on a suo motu case registered on the plight of migrant workers.
The NHRC had pointed out that states have not carried out necessary registration under the three welfare laws — Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979, Construction Workers Act, 1996 and Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 — because of which migrant workers were unable to get benefits. It was on this submission that the states were asked to file the affidavits.
The three Acts are termed welfare legislations that require states to register migrants so that funds earmarked under them can be transferred into accounts directly.
A bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan had on 9 June directed all states to file affidavits entailing the measures adopted by them to implement the three laws. The court had asked for the information in order to lay down some short and long-term guidelines for states for a more effective implementation of the laws.
While Maharashtra had filed an affidavit, it failed to give all details asked by the court.
None of the states was also able to inform if they had maintained records of migrant returnees following the Covid-19 lockdown that began on 24 March.
The court later gave all states three months to file fresh affidavits.
Advocate Mohit Paul, who represented the NHRC, told ThePrint, “States are not taking directions of the court with the seriousness that it deserves. They have also failed to take seriously the large scale transfer of labourers that took place after the lockdown was imposed.”
No unorganised worker registered with Maharashtra board
The top court had on 26 May taken suo motu cognisance of media reports showing migrant labours walking on foot and cycling for hundreds of kilometres to get back home.
On 28 May, it held a detailed hearing on the matter, following which the court made all states a party in the case and heard them on 6 June. On 9 June, the states were asked to file the affidavits.
The only state to file an affidavit is Maharashtra. In its document, the state disclosed about the rules it had framed in 2013 under the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act 2008. A board was subsequently set up on 3 April 2018 for the implementation of the Act.
But in the last two years, it disclosed, no unorganised worker has been registered, while it has enrolled over 5.5 lakh workers under the Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan Dhan Yojana.
States were asked to give details of migrants, their skills
According to the Supreme Court’s 6 June order, states had to place before it a compliance report of its direction to maintain data on returning migrants, their skills, nature of employment as well as the place where they were employed.
The court had also asked states to maintain village- block- and district-wise data on migrants to facilitate implementation of the welfare schemes.
“None of the states/union territories have filed any affidavit giving details of the compliance of the aforesaid direction. The states are required to bring on record the mode and manner in which records of migrant labourers who have reached their native places are being maintained with their skill, nature of employment and other details,” the court noted in its order Friday.
Subhash Bhatnagar of the National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour, an organisation that works for construction labourers, said the pandemic has shown how vulnerable the migrants workers are.
“Immediately, thereafter, the Government of India announced fancy schemes and asked the states to follow them. However, the situation on the ground remains unchanged. The way these three laws have remained on paper, the policies announced even now have not been implemented effectively,” he said.