The ‘nowhere people’ of COVID-19 need better legal safeguards- THE HINDU-22-04-2020


While it has become anachronistic, the need for legal safeguards and welfare measures for migrants has become even more pressing and urgent. The Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008 was enacted to provide for social security and welfare of unorganised workers. The Act defines unorganised workers as home-based worker, self-employed worker or wage worker in the unorganised sector. Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan-dhan Yojana is meant to ensure old age protection for unorganised workers.

Repealing of the ISMW Act, 1979 forthwith and replacing it with a new Act, or alternatively, enlarging the scope of UWSS Act to include legal entitlements, to define the migrant workman as a subset, to provide for contingencies of livelihood loss and to make the Act legally enforceable. Geofencing of different benefits can be done so that a migrant workman can choose location-wise benefits for himself and his family from a matrix available. A comprehensive database of the migrant workers’ source and destination, demography, employment patterns and skill sets would not only help in skill development and providing for social security benefits, but would also be useful in planning for mass transit of migrant labour, and preparing for any contingency plan in abnormal situations. Issues related to migrant workmen have complex Centre-State and inter-State dimensions.

The Inter-State Council, set up under Article 263 of the Constitution, may be a more appropriate forum to effectively and comprehensively deal with larger issues related to migrant workmen. It’s time to initiate a legal lattice that means business to the migrant workmen, and say goodbye to the antiquated law of 1979 that seems to have outlived its utility.

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