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
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. 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
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
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
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 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
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.
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
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
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
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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