Nearly 20,000 workers associated with the agate industry in Khambhat have submitted a memorandum to the state government asking for subsistence allowance after several units closed down due to the new amendment made in the Factories Act by the state labour department. According to the workers,the new amendment has made it mandatory for the units with more than one employee to get registered under the Act.
We have asked the state government to provide subsistence allowance since several units have closed down, said Jagdish Patel,Director,Peoples Training and Research Centre. The centre works for the occupational safety and health awareness,research,training,publication and advocacy. In the last few years,the NGO has focused on silicosis.
The process of registering a unit under the Factories Act is long and tedious,as it comes packed with formalities such as mapping of the unit,licensing and the like. All the agate related work is done mostly in homes employing anywhere between one and five people, said Patel.
The Factories Act,1948 is the principal legislation that governs the health,safety,and welfare of workers in factories. As per it,if a unit has over 10 workers it has to get itself registered. However,the states have the power to make amendments in the law as per their needs.
The Gujarat government had earlier brought down the number to five. In November 2008,another amendment further brought down the number to just over one. However,a unit is exempted if only family members are employed.
This was not paid heed to by most of the units. This made traders,who had supplied them with raw materials,stop supply fearing raids by factory inspectors. The units had to close down ultimately.