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IEThinc Migration Series: Govts failing in duty towards labourers, says Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren

The Chief Minister was the keynote speaker at The Indian Express Thinc migration webinar series in association with Omidyar Network India, which focused on internal migration in the country.

Written by Abhishek Angad | Ranchi |
Updated: July 30, 2021 5:42:10 pm
Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren

Governments across the board are failing in their responsibility in dealing with the problems of labourers in the unorganised sector, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said on Friday.

Soren blamed the Central government for the lack of coordination that had pushed to the back-burner action on the commitment that his government had extracted from the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to do away with labour contractors and to recruit directly from the state after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU).

The Chief Minister was the keynote speaker at The Indian Express Thinc migration webinar series in association with Omidyar Network India, which focused on internal migration in the country.

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In June 2020, the Jharkhand government received a commitment from BRO to recruit labourers directly from the state, register itself under the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, and sign an MoU. The state had received many complaints from labourers about delays in payments and other issues, Soren said.

Sarkar mazdooron ke prati zimmedari sahi tarike se nahi nibha pa rahi hai. Main lagatar kendra sarkar ke pas is vishay par samanway banane ka prayas kar raha tha, lekin mujhe lagta hai ki wo samanway bhi lagbhag toot hi sa gaya hai. Maine Defence Minister se bhi baat kiya tha ki BRO par hamare labourers jate hain jis salary par, woh salary nahin diya jata hai balki half milta hai, mediators kaise involve hote hain pata nahin chalta, jabki aap ek zimmedar sanstha hain. (The government is not acting responsibly. I have been trying constantly to establish some coordination, but it seems it is all but over. I spoke to the Defence Minister as well, saying that when labourers go to work for BRO, they are paid only half the salary they are promised. I cannot understand how mediators get involved in a responsible organisation like the BRO.),” he said.

The Chief Minister said he had sent two trains full of labourers to work for the BRO during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“BRO se sahmati banayi gayi ki hum jo bhi labour le jayenge hum rajya sarkar ki sahmati se le jayenge, sabhi ko registered kar ke le jayenge, woh saari prakriya dhari ki dhari rah gayi…Aur inhone ek formality ke tahat koi junior officer ke saath kagaz par ek formality kar di — ek chhoti moti agreement — jiska mujhe lagta hai higher level par koi effect nahi hoga. (An agreement was reached with BRO, but that process was not followed. They used a junior officer to complete a formality, a minor agreement, which I believe will not carry any weight higher up.)

“This is how we are behaving with labourers, and these organisations (BRO) are promoting mediators who go into the interiors of villages and recruit labourers… When there is a problem, there are so many bureaucratic hurdles in the government that no headway is made. The future of such labourers is dark,” he said.

Labourers play an important role in India’s economy, the Chief Minister said. He recalled instances of labourers being rescued from Tamil Nadu, and being given jobs in Jharkhand. He said he had tried to understand migration last year, and had had an unpleasant experience. Soren also referred to the devastation caused by the flood in Uttarakhand last Sunday, and said many labourers from Jharkhand were affected.

“Main CM ke roop mein ye baat bahut zimmewari ke sath kah raha hoon kyonki vigat samay mein jo migration…ko study karne ka prayas kiya, apne state mein aur doosre rajyon mein, aapko vishwas nahi hoga ki aisi aisi sansthayen hain, in mazdooron ke saath jude hue hain, aur inke saath jo durvyavahar ho raha hai, aapko sunke ashcharya hoga. Jaise Bharat sarkar ke upakram hain, jaise…border organisation hain, wahan pe logon ko le jaya jata hai, NTPC jaisi sansthaon mein le jaya jata hai… Abhi ek landslide hua Uttarakhand mein wahan par bhi hamare Jharkhand ke mazdoor maare gaye. Par kisi ke pass koi iska hisab-kitab nahin hai ki kahan se labour laya gaya, kaun labour hai, kisi ke paas koi hisab nahi hai (As a CM, I say this with a lot of responsibility…you will not believe how organisations behave with labourers. The Indian govenrment’s NTPC also employs them – you would have heard about the Uttarakhand incident; labourers from Jharkhand died, but no one has any record of where they were brought from, etc.).”

The Chief Minister’s speech was followed by a discussion among an expert panel consisting of Alex Paul Menon, Labour Commissioner and Secretary, Food and Civil Supplies, Chhattisgarh; Prof S Irudaya Rajan of the Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram; Prof Ravi S Srivastava, formerly of JNU, and currently Director, Centre for Employment Studies at the Institute of Human Development, New Delhi; and Rahul Katyal, Managing Director, Capacite Infraprojects Ltd). The session was moderated by Deputy Associate Editor at The Indian Express, Udit Misra.

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