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‘Dire need for mechanism’ to register migrant workers — Delhi HC tells Modi govt

The high court has asked the central government to place before it details of the portal it proposes to set-up for registration of migrants.

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has said there was a “dire need for creating a mechanism” to register migrant workers who leave their hometowns in search of work.

The court said this Monday while asking the central government to place before it the portal that the latter proposes to set-up for registration of migrants.

A bench of Justice Pratibha M. Singh was hearing a petition filed by Shashank S. Mangal to implement the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979.

The Act states that contractors and establishments employing migrant workers have to obtain a licence from the state to which the worker belongs (home state), as well as the place where she or he is proposed to be employed (host state). The law also entails provisions meant to safeguard the interest of transient workers.

Mangal had told the court that the 1979 law, which is already in place, lacks effective enforcement. In Delhi, the court was informed not a single migrant is registered under it.

During the hearing, the judge was told that some progress has been made under the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Act, 1996, a separate law to keep record of workers in the construction industry.

“Though some progress appears to have been made under the BOCW Act, registration/grant of licences under the 1979 Act is almost negligible, if not nil. This position needs to be altered and solved in order to ensure that migrant labour is adequately protected in terms of the Acts and benefits meant for them are also passed on to them,” the bench said, calling for a report from the central government.

The court later fixed 22 July for the next hearing on the matter. It also directed officers from the central and Delhi governments, who are familiar with the exercise, to join the next hearing via video-conferencing.

This order is likely to accelerate Narendra Modi government’s plan to develop Shramik Setu, an online portal that will also have an app version, to register migrants. This initiative was taken after the government faced severe flak for not responding to the plight of migrants who were left without work following the nationwide lockdown on account of Covid-19.

The absence of a comprehensive database on migrant workers was one of the major reasons that made the central government drop the idea of cash transfers to workers as part of its Covid-19 economic package, ThePrint had earlier reported.

Also read: Return to the city or struggle in village? Migrant workers who fled lockdown are in a bind

‘Uniform portal to register migrant workers’

In its last hearing, the high court bench had endorsed the idea of having a proper, streamlined regulation of migrant workers and their conditions of service. A significant measure, the court suggested, would be collection and integration of actual data on migrants from all states.

According to the high court, a centralised portal for registration of migrant workers by contractors or employers who engage them was necessary. Both the central and Delhi governments were then asked to file their respective affidavits disclosing data related to migrants.

The authorities were also directed to submit the procedure that was being followed for contractors or employers to register migrant workers and measures taken to ensure compliance.

During the hearing Monday, the Delhi government counsel had informed the bench that not a single worker was registered under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979.

The government, however, informed that workers were registered under the BOCW and 39,600 of them had been disbursed financial assistance during the lockdown.

The Union of India counsel, Kirtiman Singh, informed about a meeting conducted by the Ministry of Labour and Employment on 16 June, via video-conference, on having a uniform format to enable registration of migrant workers across the country.

Singh also said that despite the Shram Suvidha portal of the central government, which allows registration and license issue under the 1979 Act, no request had come from migrant workers in Delhi.

The bench then went on to direct the central government to file a detailed affidavit on the kind of portal it intends to set-up for registration of workers.

“Let a further detailed affidavit be filed by the Union of India as to the kind of portal, which is sought to be created, for the registration of migrant labourers across the country. Such a portal ought to have on board all the state governments so that the ingress and egress of migrant labour is duly recorded and reported,” the high court said.

Also read: Spread awareness instead of putting people in jail, says Allahabad HC on lockdown FIRs


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