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Protection of Rights of Unorganised Labourers in India

In India, the unorganised sector is critical to the country's economic growth. Unorganized workers make up around 92 percent of India's population. Unorganized employees do not have adequate resources to ensure their own safety. Workers' social security is crucial for their families and the society. Unorganized labourers confront a slew of issues, including inadequate salaries, dangerous working conditions, and so on.

The Unorganized Workers Social Security Act of 2008 is federal law that provides unorganised workers with social security benefits. The Indian judiciary is crucial in safeguarding the rights of the unorganised sector.

There are several plans and policies for unorganised labour that give social security and a variety of other advantages for their well-being. This paper focuses on the issues that unorganised workers confront, the role of the judiciary in safeguarding the unorganised sector, and regulations that have been developed to protect the unorganised sector.

The phrase "unorganised worker" is defined as a home-based worker, a self-employed worker, or a wageworker in the unorganised sector under section 2(m) of the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008. It includes an organized-sector worker who is not covered by any of the welfare-related legislation listed in Schedule II of the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008[1]. Unorganized employees have taken over the Indian labour market, accounting for 90% of the overall workforce. India has one of the largest unorganised sectors in the post-industrial world.

Unorganized workers are those who do not have access to benefits such as pensions, maternity leave, provident funds, and gratuities, among other things. These employees are paid on a daily and hourly basis. Unorganized labour in India is large in terms of numbers, and hence they are pervasive throughout the country. Because most unorganised labourers do not have solid, long-term job opportunities, the unorganised sector is subjected to cycles of excessive seasonality in employment.

Workers who are disorganised have no formal employer-employee relationship, and their workplace is disorganised and dispersed. Unorganized workers are prone to debt since their earnings do not cover their necessities. The rest of society exploits, harasses, and discriminates against these employees.

Problems that workers are confronted with:
They encounter several obstacles as the weaker portion of society. The following are the details.

Low wages: Wages are simply one element that every person/employer considers when making a decision. Because the labourer gets paid a pittance. The Minimum Wages Act establishes the minimum pay that must be given to the worker, however the worker does not get minimum wages. Even though economic compulsion may drive one to volunteer to work for less than the statutory minimum wage, the Supreme Court of India ruled that employing workers at wage rates below the statutory minimum wage levels is considered forced labour and is an infringement of Article 23 of the Indian Constitution.

Workplace Hazards and Occupational Safety are unknown to them- Working conditions in the unorganised sector are the major source of worker health problems. The majority of studies on house workers found that they suffer from health difficulties. The health issues are largely connected to respiratory difficulties caused by inhaling tobacco dust, as well as bodily aches caused by the unique position that must be maintained at all times while working. Many unorganised employees die as a result of unguarded machinery, different harmful chemical coal, dust lime, dust flame, and the raw material for synthetic generation, since working circumstances are more harsh and awareness of occupational health and safety is limited.

The majority of employees live in poor conditions:- They live in filthy circumstances, and they also have to contend with sewer seepage, overflowing drainage systems, flooding, and storms. They are slum dwellers. Workplace amenities such as washing, urinals, and toilets are determined to be substandard. Workers in the industries were not supplied with such amenities, it may be stated.

Long Hours of Work: In India, working long hours in the unorganised sector outside the labour and regulatory rules is commonplace. There are no defined hours of work in the agricultural industry since there are no rules governing the working conditions of farm labourers. Workers in non-agricultural industries such as fireworks, matchmaking, and power looms began working at 6:00 a.m. and continued until the evening.

Labour in the handloom industry is organised such that earnings are based on 12-15 hours of work each day. Because a big majority of workers and labourers are illiterate, businesses take advantage of them by pushing them to work longer hours. Long working hours, migrant workers' social isolation, high unemployment, illiteracy, and lack of knowledge are all important roadblocks to self-organization.

No understanding of trade unions or labour unions: Most people are unaware of the existence of trade unions and the regulations that govern them. The basic goal of forming a trade union is to resolve any disputes that may develop between a company and an employee. A trade union is one that is currently registered under the Trade Unions Act of 1926. The following ingredients can be found in a trade union.

The Unorganized Workers Social Security Act of 2008 was enacted to provide benefits to unorganised workers.

On December 30, 2008, the Indian Parliament enacted the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008. This statute intends to provide unorganised workers with social security and welfare. Various systems relating to life, disability, old age, housing, education, and work have been developed by the federal and state governments. The federal and state governments both contribute to these programmes.

This legislation applies to the entire country of India, with a focus on the unorganised sector. The National Social Security Board and the State Social Security Board have been established by the government to carry out the law.

National Social Security Administration
The Union Government established the National Social Security Board. The Union Minister is the chairperson for labour and employment. The members of the Union Government pick seven persons to represent the unorganised sector's workers and employers. The body makes recommendations to the Union Government on unorganised worker programmes. They provide advice to the government on issues arising from the administration of the act. The board keeps an eye on programmes designed for unorganised labour.

Board of Social Security for the State
In each state, the state government has established a social security board to ensure that the act is properly implemented. The State Social Security Board is made up of the same people as the National Social Security Board. The board examines the registration and issues unorganised employees with identification cards. Many functions are not delegated to the board. They can just observe and review. They are not permitted to make any choices on their own because only the government has the authority to decide on the board's recommendations.

The Act's Limitations
Apart from the formation of national and state-level bodies, the legislation makes no mention of unorganised employees' protection. The statute does not mention a separate law for agricultural employees or agricultural worker initiatives. This statute only applies to a limited portion of the unorganised sector. There is no provision in the statute that mentions penalising employers who break the law or officials who fail to register unorganised workers under the programmes.

The Judiciary's Role in Protecting the Unorganized Sector
When laws are not properly implemented, the judiciary steps in to preserve the rights of unorganised labour. Apart from law, the Indian Constitution guarantees unorganised labourers essential rights. Anyone who works but is not paid minimum wage for the labour he accomplishes is in violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The government should recognise bonded labour, according to Article 21. Every state government must provide bound labourers with fundamental human dignity.

High levels of insecurity are common:
Social security refers to the services and guarantee provided to employees. The agriculture industry, for example, has sporadic and unreliable employment. This is due to the fact that work is only available to them for about three months, and for the remaining nine months, they are mostly unemployed and starving.

Seasonal Employment:
The personnel are hired on a seasonal basis. They are only hired for a season and are unemployed for the remainder of the year. The job is only for three to four months. In India, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Workers Employment Guarantee Act of 2005 attempts to offer job stability by guaranteeing at least 100 days of work to those who can undertake manual labour in the country's most disadvantaged areas.

Women and children are unprotected, and their incomes are insufficient: Article 39(d) of the Indian Constitution states that "equal pay for equal work" means Children are compelled to labour for minimal salaries in hotels and dhabas.

Despite working the same number of hours as males, children and women get paid less. Household labour is performed by children and female employees in the homes of people who live in metropolitan areas. These children are subjected to lengthy working hours and are employed in hazardous industries such as carpet weaving, fabric printing, explosives and fireworks, cigarette manufacturing, printing, and soldering in the electronics industry.

Harassment in the workplace affecting women:
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a serious problem. Women have a legal right to a safe workplace, but it has been ignored. They continue to suffer from a variety of medical and psychological problems as a result of eve-teasing and sexual harassment. Despite the fact that the Act was passed in 2013, women are still being attacked at their employment.

Vulnerable Labor Groups: The First National Commission on Labour's study group on construction, as well as the Second National Commission on Labour's study group on construction (2002), found that a system of bondage exists on quarries, brick kilns, and large construction sites, and that it is passed down from generation to generation through labour.

Bonded labour is a debtor-creditor relationship in which the creditor makes a loan to the labourer and holds him in bond until the loan is repaid. The debt repayment is structured in such a way that the servant will not be able to repay it throughout his lifetime before committing to serve the master for the rest of his life. This characteristic distinguishes bonded labour from unpaid forced labour.Natural catastrophes: Many natural disasters, such as floods, droughts, earthquakes, famines, and others, have a severe influence on the informal economy. Natural catastrophes do not wipe away the informal sector's productive base, but they might have an impact on the owner's modest household assets.

Unorganized workers have access to social security:
Social security is critical for the well-being of employees and provides them with a sense of security. Social security policies offer several advantages in terms of boosting employees, improving industrial productivity levels, and developing a sense of security among workers. It also aided in the eradication of poverty to some extent. The right to social security is a basic human right (Though not one of the Constitutional Fundamental Right).

During the development of the 12th Five-Year Plan, the Planning Commission formed a Social Security Working Group. Out of a total workforce of 45.9 crores in India, 94 percent works in the unorganised sector, with just 6% working in the organised sector. Employees in the organised sector are protected by social security laws such as the Employees Provident Funds, Miscellaneous Provisions Act of1952 and the Employees State Insurance Act of 1948. In its first meeting, the Planning Commission's working groups formed subgroups to explore the concerns. Working groups have made suggestions using the benefits of subgroups. These suggestions are hoped to be valuable in the development of the twelfth five-year plan.

The Unorganized Social Security Act of 2008 was enacted:
The corporate environment and nature of employment have changed dramatically in the period of liberalisation, globalisation, and privatisation. Many challenges in social security measures arose as a result of these developments. In this context, in rising India, the subject of social security for the expanding segment of unorganised workers is gaining traction. For the benefit of unorganised employees, the government established a slew of social security legislation and devised a slew of programmes.

The Unorganized Employees Social Security Act of 2008 is one of the most important pieces of legislation aimed only at protecting unorganised workers. The Act's mechanism establishes a three-tiered framework for implementing the law.

In the case of People's Union for Democratic Rights v. Union of India, the plaintiff was the People's Union for Democratic Rights.

The court determined that beggaring is a kind of forced labour that violates the right to dignity, respect, and fundamental human rights. It is a violation of Article 23 of the Indian Constitution if someone uses the services of someone else and does not pay the minimum wage.

In the case of Sanjit Roy v State of Rajasthan, it was decided that paying a worker hired on famine relief labour less than the minimum wage is a violation of Article 23. When the state takes any labour or service from a person who is affected by drought or shortage, the state cannot pay him less than the minimum wage on the grounds that it is assisting them in meeting famine conditions. Their weakness cannot be used by the state.

In the case of Deena vs. Union of India, the court ruled that taking prisoners' labour without paying them a fair rate is deemed forced labour, and that it is a violation of Article 23 of the Constitution. The inmates have the right to demand appropriate remuneration for the services they have provided, and the court must uphold the labourers' claim.

In the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, the plaintiffs were the Bandhua Mukti Morcha and the defendants were the Union of India.

The court concluded that anytime a public interest lawsuit claiming the practise of bonded labour is filed, the government must consider it as an opportunity to evaluate the concerns or problems of labour and make measures to eliminate bonded labour and safeguard workers. Article 23 of the Indian Constitution, which outlaws the practise of bonded labour, protects and assists workers in earning a living.

Justice Bhagwati declared in Neeraja Chaudhary v. State of Madhya Pradesh that it is not enough for the government to discover the existence of bonded labour; it is also important for the labourers to be rehabilitated, since if they are not, they would be pushed to despair, poverty, and helplessness.

According to Article 21, bonded labour shall be detected, and the government should make every effort to fully rehabilitate the workers. The Directive Principles of State Policy were adopted as the government's guidelines. The State Government is required by the DPSP to give basic human dignity to bonded labour, and failure to do so will result in a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.

As the unorganised labourers confront several issues such as poor salaries, exploitation, and harsh working conditions, India's legal system safeguards their rights through multiple provisions protected by the Indian constitution.

The Indian government took a step forward by enacting the 'Unorganized Social Protection Act, 2008,' which provides fundamental social security to unorganised workers in the unorganised sector. The Government of India has established various programmes in accordance with this Act, including the Aam Admi Bima Yojana (Life Insurance), the old age pension system, and the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (Health Insurance).

The Central Government has been given the authority to create regulations for the smooth operation of the system under the required provision, and the State Government has been given the authority to make rules under the stated section.

Under section 11, the Central Government has the authority to provide directives to the State Government and the National Board for the appropriate execution of the Act's provisions.

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