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Unorganized Labourers' Rights Vis-a-Vis Current Legislations In India

In India, unorganised industries contribute considerably to growth (92% of total workforce), but their contribution is underappreciated due to a lack of statistical data and a process to gather it. Auto drivers, construction workers, household workers, retail employees, and other unorganised workers are examples of unorganised workers. Despite their contribution to GDP, they are readily abused by not providing minimum pay, sanitary working conditions, insurance coverage, pensions, and so forth.

Over 44 crore people work in this industry in India, yet these workers do not have social security. People working in this industry face issues such as low income, less opportunities, fewer or no regulations safeguarding their rights, lengthy working hours, and so on.

What is unorganized Worker as per Indian Laws?

According to the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act of 2008, unorganised labourers or workers are those who are wage workers in the unorganised sector, self-employed workers, home-based workers, and where the workers number less than ten, these workers are not covered by Schedule II of the Act, which includes the Employee Compensation Act of 1923, the Industrial Dispute Act of 1947, the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, and others.

The government classified these workers into four groups based on their uniqueness:

  • In terms of employment, such as construction workers, weavers, and automobile drivers.
  • The most exploited labours, such as scavengers and porters
  • Service workers such as waiters, delivery boys, Platform Workers

Laws for Unorganized workers in India

The Indian Parliament approved the Unorganized Sector Social Security Act in 2008 to offer social insurance to unorganised employees. This Act only applied to unorganised employees and focused on measures connected to their health, maternity benefit, old age pension, and other Central Government benefits. The Act also authorises the state government to implement welfare schemes for unorganised employees in areas such as provident fund, housing educational benefits, worker skill upgradation, accident insurance, and so on.

The mechanism under the Act provides 3 tier system for implementation of law:

National Social Security Board
Under this Act, the Indian Government established the National Social Security Board for unorganised workers in 2009. This board makes recommendations to the central government about welfare schemes for unorganised workers, administers and maintains central government schemes, and allocates funds to various government schemes.

State Social Security Board
The State Government also establishes a State Social Security Board for unorganised workers to recommend State Government welfare schemes for these workers, to assist the State Government in the administration and monitoring of these schemes, to assist the Government in allocating funds district wise, and to assess the performance of different districts.

After independence, the Indian government implemented many social security plans for the working class, such as Skill India Mission, MNREGA, and others, however these programmes were insufficient to alleviate the conditions of these unorganised employees.

Worker facilitation Centre
The Act also provides for the establishment of "Workers Facilitation Centers" by state governments to disseminate information about social security schemes, assist unorganised workers in registering for social security, and facilitate the enrolment of registered unorganised workers in social security schemes, but the Act is silent on the level at which these workers facilitation centres are to be established.

Limitations of Act
This Act has no provisions for the social security of unorganised employees other than the establishment of social security boards at the national and state levels. This statute makes no provision for monitoring the government's social security programmes. Agriculture employees are not covered by this legislation, and no other legislation is purchased for them. The Act only applies to a limited percentage of the unorganised sector, and it makes no mention of penalties for employers who violate it.

Problems related to unorganised sector in India
Insecurity of Job:
Unorganized workers have no job security and can be dismissed at any time by their employer without warning. These employees lacked a means for resolving their complaints.

Long working hours:

These employees did not have a set schedule in the unorganised sector. They must labour according to the employer's wishes, for example, working 12 hours one day and 18 hours the next.

No standard payment of wages:
In India, we have the Minimum Wages Act 1948, which states that minimum wages must be paid by employers to employees. However, this law does not apply to unorganised workers because the unorganised sector is not regulated and there is no institution that can hear their grievances, so they had to accept whatever the employer offered and thus had to live at the mercy of the employer.

Bad working conditions:
Unorganized labourers did not have appropriate working conditions; they were forced to work in hazardous conditions with no safety precautions, and as a result, many of them died.

No or limited understanding of the effects of hazardous work - Because the majority of these employees are illiterate, they are unaware of the impact of hazardous work on their health, such as workers who work in mines without any safety precautions developing significant diseases such as asthma, cancer, and so on.

Temporary employment:
These unorganised workers are primarily seasonal employees who do not have permanent jobs. They work 100-150 days a year and are unemployed the rest of the time.

Women's Wages and Security Issues:
Women are paid less than males in the unorganised sector, while doing equivalent labour. Women also confront safety difficulties in this industry, as they are sexually exploited and abused at work.

Role of Courts in protecting the rights of unorganised labour in India:
Sometimes due to ineffectiveness of laws or due to failure in proper implementation of laws for protecting the rights of unorganised labours, Indian Judiciary had come forward and protect the rights of these vulnerable group through its various judgments:

In case of People's Union for Democratic Rights vs Union of India, Supreme Court said that if workers are paid less than minimum wages then it violates their Right to Life with dignity under Article 21 and also termed such labour as forced labour.

In case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha vs. Union of India, Supreme Court said that it is duty of Government to ensure social welfare and labour laws enacted to secure a life with dignity for workmen.

Unorganized employees suffer several issues, such as poor salaries, lengthy working hours, and so on. To address these issues, the government enacted several laws and programs, such as the Social Security Act. However, the government's efforts are insufficient to address the difficulties of these unorganised employees.

Finally, I believe that the government should enact new laws to protect these employees while simultaneously establishing a method to monitor whether these laws are being successfully applied on the ground.


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