TN government plans resource centre to ‘track’ migrant workers

TN government plans resource centre to ‘track’ migrant workers


Chennai: Under fire from various international organisations for failing to monitor the working conditions of migrant women labourers in Tamil Nadu’s bristling textile hubs, the state government is mulling over setting up a resource centrethat would track the movement of this vulnerable section and resolve their grievances.
As part of the process, the department, in coordination with the Tamil NaduInstitute of Labour Studies and International Labour Organisation, will undertake a survey on women migrant labourers in four districts – Tirupur, Coimbatore, Salem and Erode – and assess their working conditions. “We will be able to identify their needs and set up a hub that will cater exclusively to them. This will also include a helpline,” said a senior official in the department, adding the project is still in a nascent stage. “We have to plan this on a private-public-partnership mode so that all stakeholders are involved and they take responsibility of these labourers’ working condition,” he said.
A 2016 survey by Tamil Nadu government revealed that there are 10.67 lakh migrant workers in the state. The highest employer of this group was the manufacturing sector (27%), followed by textile (14.1%) and construction (11.4%).
There are more than 1,500 mills in Tamil Nadu, the biggest hub for textile and manufacturers in India, employing up to 400,000 workers to turn cotton into yarn, fabric and clothes.
In December 2016, India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN), an independent human rights organisation, released a research report titled – Fabric of Slavery, that indicted the textile spinning mills in Tamil Nadu of practising what the ILO defines as ‘forced labour’.
The death of a 21-year-old woman working in a garment factory in Tirupur last year reignited concerns among rights campaigners over the working conditions of low-paid textile workers in the multi-billion dollar industry. A report into the woman’s death by the Rights Education and Development Centre, a charity working with textile workers, said migrant workers “were not being paid minimum wages and were unregistered”.
Helen Sekar, senior faculty at V V Giri National Labour Institute, said over the last five years there has been a sharp increase in women accompanying these migrant workers. “This could be because large-scale migration triggered by the agrarian crisis has emptied out villages. There is no community support for women who stay back unlike in the past. So they choose to accompany their men,” said Helen. “In our current crisis, every hand in a labourer’s household is used to bring in revenue – be it a woman or a child,” she said. While migrant workers themselves are marginalised with little or no support system, the plight of women who accompany them is rarely documented.
As a key source state, the Bihar government too is in the process of setting up a resource centre to track migrant workers, with a unit specially dedicated to women. “If we have more resource centres, we will be able to facilitate an online tracking system,” said Helen, who is working with the government on the project. However, officials are still diffident about how the project would take off considering legislations like the Interstate Migrant Workmen Act (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) – which makes registration of employees mandatory and strictly regulates the working conditions such as wages, allowances, equality and proper recording and maintenance of their employment details – is rarely followed.

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