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Constitutional Rights of Workers in India

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Every labourer is worthy of his hire. No country can produce thousands of unpaid whole-time workers                                                                                                                                                              --- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi The substantive content of workers’ rights has changed over time. In the early period of the industrial revolution, it sought to protect the most vulnerable workers against physical and moral brutality, then to ensure that they worked in safe and healthy conditions and ultimately now it is in a phase where workers are to be paid enough to meet the normal needs of the average human being living in a civilized community. Workers rights are based at two dimensions; one at the individual level and other is collective rights, which have its roots in theories. However, from the end of the 19th century, workers rights were largely focused on collective issues. The Constitution of India was built on Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity which set foundational goals for Indian society. Globalization, Privatization, and Liberalization being the central polices of Indian Governments since the year 1991, it was  important to bring back the focus on worker’s rights through basic law doctrine of India i.e. Constitution of India. The rights promote workers to organize for collective bargaining for securing social justice. Hence main goal of workers right is to uplift the powerless workers to securing for themselves welfare and social security. Workers’ rights are legal framework for providing welfare facilities to the workers. The workers’ rights in Indian Constitution has been designed in such a manner as to secure the workers from undue exploitation but law itself cannot offer protection unless there is a sense of awareness of its existence among workers, in this direction education of workers requires to be given top most priority so they become conscious of their rights. Ahuja (1998) said that the basic purpose of workers’ rights is to enrich the life of workers, keep them happy and conducted. Some of important Constitutional provisions regarding workers rights:  Article 14th of the Indian Constitution explains the concept of Equality before law. Equality before the law means that among equals the law should be equal and should be equally administered and labour laws must be equally applicable on all workers, rules and regulation. It must be same for all workers in any premises without any discrimination on the basis of caste, class, religion, race and sex. Article 15th of the Indian Constitution talks about the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of caste, class, religion, race and sex means there should not be any kind of discrimination in the workplace by the employer, manager or supervisor on workers. All workers must be treated equally. Article 19(1, c) of the Indian Constitution provide the workers right to form an associations and unions, participate in trade union movements. Under clause (4) Of Article 19, however, the State may by law impose reasonable restrictions on this right in the interest of public order or morality or the sovereignty and integrity of India. The right of association pre-supposes organization. It is a temporary or permanent organization of workers for the protection of interest of their members. It promotes the peaceful and harmonious relationship within the organization. Collective bargaining power of workers is realized through this article. Article 23rd of the Indian Constitution prohibits tariff of bonded and forced labor in any form of employment. This article promotes the decent work for workforce. The second part of this Article imposes a positive obligation on the State to take steps to abolish forced labour wherever they are found. Article 38th of the Indian Constitution said it is responsibility of state to promote welfare of workers through certain policy, programs and legislation for improving the social functioning of them. And also secure the interest of workers by making provisions of their interest. Article 39th of the Indian Constitution promotes equality on the basis of sex, article inherent that men and women both are equal so it is employers’ responsibility to provide equal wages to men and women for equal work. Article said health and strength of workers should be maintained and promoted by the employer through providing healthy working environment to their workers. Article 42nd of the Indian Constitution talks about the promotion of peaceful and healthy working condition for workers to secure their health. And article also have provision of maternity benefit for working women, maternity benefits includes leave with wages for pregnancy days and after the birth of child for specific period of time. Article, 43rd of the Indian Constitution clearly states that it is responsibility of the state to secure living wages, good conditions of work, ensuring a decent standard of life and provide social and cultural opportunities to the workers by enacting suitable legislations. Article, 43rd (a) of the Indian Constitution promotes the workers participation in management and other processes of organization. Participation can improve the relationship between employer and workers and minimize the industrial conflicts. Through participation in managerial process workers feels motivated, secured and empowered. A number of Constitutional provisions along with International treaties, provisions incorporated in legislative framework so that a decent work culture can be placed throughout the country. But reality is just contrary to the provisions available on the record. There are around more than 40 labour laws in India to safeguard the worker’s individual as well as collective rights but gradually systems neglected and weakened who were responsible, capable to implement labour laws. We more focused on bringing legislations but completely ignored to strengthen systems to implement these laws. Most of labour department’s bodies have not sufficient number of staffs, lack in specialization and training to handle issues. Civil Societies Organisations has been raising these issues for number of years but needed action not taken in this regard. Any of nations progress largely depends on the health of their workforce. No doubt, healthy workforce play huge role in nation building.. It is responsibility of State and its government to maintain and protect their rights. Based on the framework of the fundamental rights and directive principles incorportated in the Constitution, four main branches of legislation related to workers in India provide a large number of central labour legislations for securing the interest of workers. These legislations can be classified into: legislation related to welfare; wages; social security; and industrial relations. Now focus need to be given agencies so that reality of the Constitution will be reflected at the grass root in parctice. Salman, M.Phil Second Year Student at Department of Social Work, University of Delhi Image Credit: 

More than 20,000 women & children victims of human trafficking: India as a Nation failed to safe women and children

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 “Just Imagine having all of your freedoms taken away, being forced to work against your will, and always living under the threat of violence – in short, being forced to live as a slave. Sadly, this situation is a reality for millions of children, women, and men each year as part of the global human trafficking industry.” – Bill Flores Trafficking of human beings is the third largest organized crime after drugs and arms trade across the globe; a global problem which needs grave intervention of all the countries affected.  Trafficking especially of Women and Children is a serious concern prevalent in India. As per government data, in 2016, almost 20,000 women and children were victims of human trafficking in India, a rise of nearly 25 per cent compared to 2015. India is the source, destination and transit country for human trafficking which saw its involvement in forced labour and sex trafficking particularly, as per a report published by the US Department of State Understanding it obligations, India ratified the Palermo protocol in 2011 to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in person, especially women and children. The definition says that human beings are trafficked for different types of exploitation, which “at a minimum includes the exploitation of the prostitution of others, sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.” Realizing the long need of a specific law in country tackling the issue of human trafficking, the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018, was passed in the Lok Sabha. The bill released by Women and Child Development Minister Ms Maneka Gandhi has left anti-trafficking activist confounded and dissatisfied. The legislation which we as a nation are in dire need of, to tackle the worst form of human rights violation in the form of human trafficking, the bill receives plethora of criticism from various activist groups who have dedicated their lives to the cause. Ms Ruchira gupta from Apne Aap Foundation, raised her concerns on millions of victims of sex trafficking who are left out in the bill, from its very definition. “There is no mention of the word sexual exploitation or prostitution of others as an offence in the bill either in the definitions section or in the criminal provisions as sixty percent of those trafficked in India are trafficked for the purpose of prostitution’’ She pointed out that, “It is the buyer who drives the industry. So, we really need the sex buyer to be punished. Include prostitution and sexual exploitation as an aggravated offence Earmark budgets for that last girl. The most vulnerable of all human beings, for her food, for her livelihood skill-training and legal protection through the Panchayati Raj system, which knows her and can track her if she goes missing.” “and worldwide figures states, almost80% of all worldwide trafficking is for sexual exploitation, with an estimated 1.2 million children being bought and sold into sexual slavery every year. Women and girls are the main victims of human trafficking in India as they are then forced into prostitution, forced marriage, and domestic work.” When it comes to taking inspiration to combat this grave crime of human trafficking, we clearly have examples of countries like sweden, which has now become a less logical place for sex traffickers and it is difficult to find any underage girl forced into prostitution in Sweden, the country used “big-stick approach,” where the prostitute is not charged when caught but the man paying for sex is put behind punished under criminal acts. In combating trafficking and in framing anti trafficking strategies, it is evident to take adequate steps for the prevention of trafficking, and should not only restrict to post trafficking criminal prosecution. The emphasis is on awareness campaign, workshops and imparting education pertaining to the issue at trafficking source areas. All stakeholders will be empowered and aware if effective prevention mechanisms are created. At district, state and central level, the institutional infrastructure will be formed that will be responsible for the prevention mechanisms as per the Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018 bill. The criticism on bill regarding the existence of laws on curbing trafficking including Section 371 of the IPC that ‘criminalizes slavery’, Section 371-373 that ‘criminalizes buying and selling of underage girls for prostitution’, The Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, that defines prevention through mechanisms such as the Child Welfare Committee. Since the essential core step for prevention of trafficking lies in the awareness of the vulnerable communities that are normally affected by the issue, these communities might have to bear the brunt of the introduced bill on account of illiteracy, lacking the knowledge of legal rights and proceedings, lack of education. They will be the most exploited especially with the complicated legislation on the issue of trafficking.  As out of the 16 million women and girls who are trapped in prostitution in India today, a majority of them were trafficked as girls and belong to the most marginalized groups-dalits, adivasis, backward classes, minorities and de-notified criminal tribes.  “People from the lower cast or the tribal communities and the women and children from the excluded groups of the society are generally lured of a better lifestyle and employment opportunity and sold by the agents.” The another claim on the bill is hindering the freedom of women as the bill doesn’t clearly define ‘trafficking for marriage’, it can restrict the choices and mobility of women especially those working in the unorganized sector as it doesn’t mark out voluntary and involuntary acts. There is a need to look on all-inclusive rehabilitation, as the primary focus of the bill is on outlining offences rather than focusing on alternate and individual-centric rehabilitation strategies. Activists says, many victims refuses to stay in shelter homes considering the less conducive and measurable conditions of shelter homes. What all these victims need is exit strategies from the vicious cycle of exploitation. What we all as a nation wants, considering the disturbing state of human trafficking in India is a law that can effectively tackle the problem of trafficking. All those criticism should be taken as healthy suggestions to prepare “first-ever comprehensive anti-human trafficking law” in India. At the end we all are in this for the betterment of our society, to reduce the epidemic of trafficking in India. Shalu Saharan: She did her post graduation in Social Work from Delhi School of Social Work, University of Delhi and working in development sector for last may years. She is specialized in Counselling, Micro-Planning, Gender Analysis. Please write to her Image Credit: 

India is a home of 5.4 million children of sex workers

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There is a category of children who are often overlooked by the social scientists, researchers and society at large. This category, considered the most vulnerable, is stigmatized since their birth with no fault of their own. Often faced the worst form of human rights violation, denied basic human rights including shelter, health and education. On account of lack of political commitment, stigmatization and conventional norms in India they are excluded from the mainstream society. Victim of power structure in the community, and society at large that exposes them to vulnerable life conditions such as lack of legal protection, trafficking, and everyday violence and abuse. India is a home of approximately 5.4 million children of sex workers and majority of them live with their mothers in red light areas (NHRC, 2008). The children of the sex workers in India are deprived of an environment conducive to physical and psychological development; living in brothel the children have limited access to education. Education as expressed by many social scientist and activists is seen as an empowering tool for them to come out from the vicious cycle of guilt, exploitation and poverty. As per Child right convention (CRC), every child has the right to be educated and children rights have legal, political, cultural, social, economic, demographic and environment dimension. Education empowers, provides choices and a voice to disadvantaged children and young people. It helps socio-economically disadvantaged children to break the poverty cycle and to have a better future. Education is a stepping-stone to self-development for those who are disadvantaged by creating choices, and builds self-confidence and self-reliance for individuals. However, we as a society left no chance of degrading the sex workers and their children and with our nonchalant attitude we create high brick walls for them with very little opportunity to improve their lives and towards a life of dignity as per societal standards. These children if mustered the courage to get anyhow enrolled in school, the attrition rate is very high on account of the embarrassment over their family situation or because of lack of financial means to continue. Intrusive questions in school by other children often lead them to humiliation and a psychological inadequacy. It is extremely challenging for them to study with other children. Education to the children of sex workers is not an easy task in the Indian context as there are barriers from society, from the local community as well as from the brothel. “…I was accused of being an evil-doer, of being guilty whenever something went wrong. Someone else broke the pots in the class, but I was blamed. I was beaten up by teachers; I was beaten up by students. I was called names, I heard people say indecent things about my mother. One day, I had had enough, so I left the school.” (Snippet from a child of sex worker) Most of them dream of rescuing their mothers from sex work. However, in reality the children are often cruelly ragged about their mother’s profession. Their identity makes it stressful for them to continue going to school. The psychological damage is a common problem for children growing up in brothels. Many children of sex workers have a hard time with social exclusion, most children are forced to live with a deep sense of guilt or disgrace about their mother’s professional identity. As per a survey conducted in Bowbazar of Kolkata which revealed that only about 36 percent of children interviewed attended schools. Out of which a large number of children dropout of school because of the stigma attached, abuse from the outside world and poor intermingling with peers within the school and outside school hours, these children often end up playing on the streets, running shops for the local gangs or clubs which have formed by the elder ones in the same locality. These children are exposed to relatively poor conducive environment and general poor support or encouragement towards academics. A number of Non-Governmental organizations (NGO) are working for the welfare and benefit of children of sex workers. Efforts have been made to create opportunities for the sex worker’s children to continue their education. The NGOs provide education either through opening up residential schools in area or sending the children to government schools around the area. These NGOs also act as day care or residential Centre’s, where the mothers involved in sex work can leave their children, when they are off to practice their profession. The qualitative study conducted by NIMHANS with the children of sex workers in Pune and Delhi revealed how all the children of sex workers interviewed had a dream of becoming something in their lives and all has aspirations and showed an unsaid wish and attitude to a dignified and better life free of any stigma. These children aren’t recognized in the society as having dignity. People look down upon them and regularly deprive them from their rights. They are often badly behaved with, owing to their identity as children of sex workers. These children need a fair chance to live a normal life of dignity with other children, what all they lack is the acceptance from the society. No matter how many laws and policies are being framed for these children of sex workers, until acceptance and a change in the mindset and indomitable beliefs that we as a society are conditioned with, the plight of these children would remain this grave.      Author: Shalu Saharan (She did her post graduation in Social Work from Delhi School of Social Work, University of Delhi & working in development sector since 2014 on various positions. She is specialized in Counselling, Micro-Planning, Gender Analysis. Please write to her Image Credit: 

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