The state labour department’s proposal to create a specialised overseas employment cell, which was submitted six months ago, has been gathering dust in Mantralaya. The cell would keep a tab on the number of migrant workers that go abroad and deal with their issues on a regular basis.
“The proposal is being considered. But since there can be no policy change for a few days because of the elections, moving it will take some time,” said Arvind Kumar, principal secretary, state labour department.
“A separate body that handled such issues used to exist, but it was shut down because of mismanagement,” said Kumar.
Even though the state sends a small number of migrant workers, including semi-skilled and unskilled workers such as construction workers, domestic help and drivers, abroad (compared to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Kerala), there is no state-level monitoring authority for them. A major chunk of these workers go to Gulf countries.
Pravasi Bharatiya Day (PBD) on January 9 is observed to mark the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi in India to lead the country’s freedom struggle.
To mark the contribution of Indians working overseas to the economy, the ministry of overseas Indian affairs has organised a gala event to celebrate the 12th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Delhi. However, several migrants’ rights, human rights and domestic workers’ groups for marginalisation of migrant workers have flayed it.
“The event’s registration fee is Rs15,750. Only the rich NRIs can afford taking part in it.
There was no representation in the event for labourers working abroad,” said Dr Lissy Joseph of Andhra Pradesh Domestic Workers’ Welfare Trust, one of the organisers of the demonstration.
On Tuesday, protestors held a parallel event cum demonstration in Jantar Mantar called the Aam Pravasi Bharatiya Divas where they demanded that PBD be made a platform for taking up the labour diaspora’s problems. They had also written to the prime minister, the president and the external affairs minister to consider their demands, which includes ratification of International Labour Organisation’s conventions 97, 143 and 189.
There are growing instances of abuse of migrant workers, especially in the Gulf. These range from non-payment of wages to deplorable working conditions to physical abuse and sexual harassment. Forcible confiscation of passports is common and many migrant workers struggle to get back to India.
While Maharashtra numbers were not available with the department, it is estimated around 25 million Indians from around the country work abroad and about 8 million of them work in the Gulf countries. In 2013, India reportedly earned a remittance of $71 billion.
Draining of workforce
It is estimated around 25 million Indians from around the country work abroad and about 8 million of them work in the Gulf countries. In 2013, India reportedly earned a remittance of $71 billion. There are growing instances of abuse of migrant workers, especially in the Gulf.