Rajasthan: Migrants not paid wages since lockdown started, reveal findings
The findings of the labour organisations and district legal service authorities (DLSAs) in Rajasthan have revealed that 90% of labourers have not been paid their wages since lockdown restrictions were enforced in the desert state in mid-March to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak.
Labourers have been denied their wages, despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal in a pre-nationwide lockdown address to the public on March 20.
The common findings of DLSA Bikaner, Jodhpur, Ajmer, Jaipur rural, Sirohi, Baran, Alwar and Udaipur, which HT has seen, reveal that most of the labourers are facing a massive cash crunch.
Rajasthan state legal service authority (SLSA), secretary, Ashok Jain, said that on March 28 all the DLSAs were instructed to help stranded migrants. On May 14, they were instructed to investigate whether migrant workers received the relief provided by the state government, he added.
“Shelter, food and home are covered under Article 21 of the Constitution. There’re reports that the labourers have been badly hit, despite the state government’s efforts. In a bid to assess the ground reality, investigations are being carried out across the state,” said Jain.
A senior state government official said around four lakh stranded labourers, who came back to their native places, are finding it difficult to get any employment amid the pandemic.
Harkesh Bugaliya, general secretary, Rajasthan Nirman Evam General Workers’ Union, said around 2.5 lakh workers are desperately looking for an alternate source of income in Jaipur alone, as they have run of money since the lockdown started.
“Labourers in Jaipur waited for 15 days and hoped to get paid at least a part of their wages. But they got nothing,” Bugaliya said.
Rajesh Yagyesh, president, Bandhua Mukti Morcha, said around eight lakh labourers are living in Alwar, a major industrial corridor for Rajasthan and also neighbouring Haryana and Delhi.
“The owners of factories, mines and industries in Alwar paid these labourers their wages for March and told them to leave, as they cannot afford to pay them anymore because of the losses suffered due to lockdown restrictions,” said Yagyesh.
He said the humanitarian crisis involving the migrant labourers could have been averted had the central government given a prior notice of three-four days instead of only four hours before enforcing the nationwide lockdown restrictions from March 25.
Rana Sengupta, chief executive of the Jodhpur-based non-profit Mine Labour Protection Campaign, said that though there are boards to safeguard the interests of construction workers, the mining sector has no such mechanism.
“The labourers in the mining sector are paid wages every fortnight. In Rajasthan, the lockdown was imposed on March 15 and because of which around 30 lakh labourers, who are engaged in the mining sectors, have not been paid their wages since then,” Sengupta said.
Niraj K Pawan, secretary, labour, employment, skill and entrepreneurship, said though there have been complaints that labourers have not been paid their April wages, all dues were cleared before the lockdown was imposed.
“We accept that there are issues, but we’re trying to resolve them at the earliest,” said Pawan.
State chief minister Ashok Gehlot had also directed officials a few days ago to set up an online employment exchange for labourers to help them get jobs during the lockdown. The CM had said that the exchange would meet industries’ requirements by providing manpower and had ordered an online mapping of both domestic and outstation workers, including those engaged in the realty sector.
He had held a review meeting of the labour department and advocated the growing need to support the labourers in their hour of crisis.
“The need of the hour is new projects of skill development in a bid to retool the labourers in line with the emerging trends,” Gehlot had said.
Pankaj Meena, a state spokesperson for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), defended the central government’s bid to impose nationwide lockdown restrictions.“Our PM has announced relief packages for the unorganised sector,” Meena said.
Archana Sharma, a state spokesperson, Congress, said though the financial condition of some industries are good, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are badly hit because of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). “Labourers should be paid their wages on humanitarian ground,” she added.