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Situation Of Crisis For Migrant Workers

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.[1]

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.[2]

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[3], 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. [4]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.[5] 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. [6] 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.

Judicial view
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 [7]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.

  1. International Migration Review, 25 (4) (1991), pp. 737-770, 10.2307/2546843
  2. Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 54 (2020), p. 102254, 10.1016/j.ajp.2020.102254
  3. The Intersection of Public Policy, Labour Law and Human Rights Law in the Migrant Workers' Crisis, 8 NLUO LJ (2021) 58
  4. Migrant Crisis in India: A Pandemonium Over a Pandemic, 3 NMIMS L Rev (2021) 138
  5. Problems & Miseries of Migrant Labourers, In re, (2020) 7 SCC 181
  6. The Moving Moorings of Migrants: Rights and Justice in India, 8 NLUO LJ (2021) 75
  7. Problems & Miseries of Migrant Labourers, In re, (2020) 7 SCC 181

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