“People are being treated like dirt”, the Supreme Court said on Friday as it flayed Odisha and Andhra Pradesh governments for the dismal condition of workers.
The apex court expressed anguish over the “inadequate” steps taken by the state governments in this regard.
“People are being treated like dirt. Please don’t treat people like this. Take this issue seriously or we will take your inaction seriously,” the social justice bench comprising justices Madan B Lokur and UU Lalit said.
The apex court was hearing a suo motu plea about the incident of chopping off the right hands of two migrant labourers from Odisha by a contractor from Andhra Pradesh in December, 2013.
“It is terrific state of affairs. Either the measures taken are inadequate or they are not yielding results,” the bench said.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the steps taken by the state governments, it directed the state governments of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to file “proper” affidavits within four weeks indicating short and long term measures to prevent exploitation of migrant workers and ensure the safety of those involved in brick kiln industry.
The court had earlier directed Odisha and Andhra Pradesh to inform it about the action plan and steps to prevent recurrence of such incidents.
It had also sought information on how many complaints have been filed against those found violating statutory provisions of laws like Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 and whether any survey in this regard has been conducted.
The bench had also directed secretary, state legal services authority to visit the migration-prone areas in Odisha and submit a report on steps that can be taken to prevent exploitation, malpractices and violations relating to the workers.
Taking cognisance of a media report on the incident, the apex court had issued notice to chief secretaries of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
According to the report, the incident had occurred near a jungle in Belpada village in Kalahandi district of Odisha when two labourers were being taken back to their homes to recover the money paid to them in advance when they were hired.
They were being taken back as they had refused to work in a brick kiln in Raipur district of Chhattisgarh.
On the way back, the contractor and his accomplice got drunk and chopped off the right hands of the two workers, the report had said.
The two labourers were part of a group of 12 hired for Rs 14,000 each by the contractor to work in a brick kiln in Andhra Pradesh.
However, the contractor tried to forcibly take all of them to Raipur to work in a brick kiln there, which the labourers refused and 10 of them managed to escape, the report had said.