A nation undergoing developmental stage has the workers as the backbone of
the economy and has always remained in India, despite being in a vulnerable
condition in terms of both mental and physical state. The blog intends to cover
numerous violations of the basic and economic rights granted to domestic migrant
workers and other labourers by the way of labor laws and the Constitution of
India. Also, looking into the bigger picture of socio-psychological effects of
circular migration as well as the various hardships that migrants faced in India
during the lockdown.
With countless deaths and innumerable people in hospitals, widespread economic
depression, unemployment and situations of strict lockdown with a blanket ban on
travel was seen as a necessity to combat the pandemic which plunged the entire
world into an unprecedented crisis and lingering uncertainty.
The migrants were discovered to be one of the most vulnerable sections in the
population during this lockdown, as their very livelihood had ceased to function
due to stoppage of work in the industries. Not only hunger and starvation were
the causes of hardship during crisis falling upon the migrants but also the
police brutality, exhaustaion and inavailablity of timely medical facilities led
the situation to worsen.
A highly unexpected complete shutdown necessitated the labourers to return
hurriedly to their respective homes, and this was evident enough to violation of
human rights and increased number of cases filed under National Human Right
Commission which was also disadvantageous position for labourers who are not
educated enough and aware of the rights infringed and remedy to be availed.
The instant result of lockdown was suspension of human rights of the citizens
overnight. Not only by this but also the marginalised labourers were denied
their salaries and wages for the stretched period of shutdown.
The government schemes of Public Distribution System, were also not
accessible to the migrants as the ones living away could not get benefitted of
the free rationing plan due to not being a local resident and thus the failure
of government of not making possible amendments to the schemes.
The debt burden upon the migrants grew as a result of a big number of workers
losing their jobs and being unable to service their debt. When restrictions to
move that is lockdown were imposed, labour recruiters postponed migrants'
deployment, adding significantly to migrants' past debts.
Most of the countries have virtually few of the rights recognized from the
international treaties. The International Labor Organization (ILO) was
established in 1919, and efforts to codify workers' and migrants' rights gained
traction. Despite the apparent normative validity of many of the Convention's
protection measures, the Convention's potential to meaningfully improve the
human rights status of anomalous migrants is severely limited. Aside from the
law, migrant workers' social cognitions are essential to the human rights issues
that surround them.
Rights to the migrant workers:
Article 14 of the Indian constitution, which states that everyone is equal
before the law, demonstrates the fundamental rights afforded to migrants.
Article 15 forbids the government from discriminating against citizens. Article
16 guarantees equal job opportunities under a state; Article 19(1) (c)
guarantees the ability to form organisations and unions. Article 21 ensures the
right to life and liberty.
Article 21 A mandates free and compulsory education for all children aged 6 to
14. Article 23 of the Indian constitution outlaws all forms of human trafficking
and forced labor; Article 24 outlaws child labour and makes it illegal to employ
a child under the age of 14 in a factory, mine, or other hazardous work.
Other regulations aimed at protecting the interests of Indian migrant workers
include the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Central Rules, 2017, which govern the
employment of inter-state migrant workers and provide for their working
conditions and other related issues. The Act defines the criteria for the
contractor to provide the workers with salary, housing, medical facilities,
protective clothes, and so forth.
Other laws designed to protect workers' interests include the Payment of Wages
Act-1936, which requires that wages be paid in cash rather than in kind to
employed persons within the prescribed time limit; the Industrial Dispute
Act-1947, which requires the investigation and resolution of industrial
disputes; and the act of Minimum Wages introduced in the year 1948, which
establishes the rates of minimum wage in the area of certain occupations.
The pandemic paved the way for the state to violate labour laws. Due to a dearth
of human resources during the period, numerous Indian states extended labourers'
working hours without providing any compensation for overtime. To assist
industry in recovering from the pandemic, working hours were increased from 8 to
12. Contrary to the International Labor Organization convention, to which the
country is a signatory member to.
The ILO voiced its dissatisfaction with the Indian states' revisions to labour
laws and encouraged them to have tripartite consultations involving labour
unions, employers, and the government before implementing the new standards. 
In a society that claims to be socialist and labor-friendly, putting its workers
through 12 hours of hard labour should not be the norm.
At the outset, the Apex Court of the country declined to hear any public
interest lawsuit on the situation of migrants. It refused to hear PILs about the
plight of workers. Only after two long months of lockdown and continual
criticism from lawyers and retired judges did the Court decide to take suo-motu
notice of the situation of migrant workers and enable the resumption of
migrant workers' transportation.
By not providing with any relief or too little, the Court effectively denied the
migrant workers the most fundamental right to access to equity guaranteed by the
Constitution. As a result, it has dismissed millions of migrant workers and has
struggled to function as the court of most superior hierarchy of the nation.
There are gaps in India's pandemic and emergency recurrence efforts, which need
to be more humanitarian and include more disadvantaged people, particularly
children and women. Before introducing any legislation that may have an impact
on the lives of the masses, the public must be given confidence.
It is critical to avoid rash strategic decisions that could have a large impact
on the lives of a large population. Internal migration must be highlighted in
policymaking. There is an additional need in Indian society to eliminate the
negative perception of internal migrants.
- International Migration Review, 25 (4) (1991), pp. 737-770,
- Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 54 (2020), p. 102254,
- The Intersection of Public Policy, Labour Law and Human Rights Law in
the Migrant Workers' Crisis, 8 NLUO LJ (2021) 58
- Migrant Crisis in India: A Pandemonium Over a Pandemic, 3 NMIMS L Rev
- Problems & Miseries of Migrant Labourers, In re, (2020) 7 SCC 181
- The Moving Moorings of Migrants: Rights and Justice in India, 8 NLUO LJ
- Problems & Miseries of Migrant Labourers, In re, (2020) 7 SCC 181