Tuesday, Jun 22, 2021 11:30 [IST]
Last Update: Tuesday, Jun 22, 2021 05:54 [IST]
The Hon’ble Chief Minister,
Government of Sikkim
Sub: Registration of individual/unorganised workers
This is submitted before you for your kind consideration please.
That, the recent office order of the Labour Department (No. 55/DL, dated 08 June,
2021) regarding the registration of the unorganized (unregulated)/individual workers under the Sikkim Labour Protection Act, 2005 is overwhelmingly welcomed by the Sikkimese people, and has since remained a widely discussed topic.
The two-fold reason for the introduction of the said Act is;
(1) to protect the otherwise unregulated/unregistered workers from exploitation, and
(2) to keep a record and statistical data of such workers for various purpose.
As work is power, the decision in implementing the said Act has achieved a milestone in winning heart and minds of the people, reflecting thereby a strong sense of belonging and trust with a fresh blast of momentum.
While in general, people have understood that the office order is exclusively meant for the “daily wage workers”, however, a closer look reveals that the said order encompass a broader class of workers, as been suitably termed, the “unorganized (unregulated)/individual workers.”
Nevertheless, some class of “unorganized (unregulated)/individual workers.” not covered in the recent office order include (though not exhaustive),
(i) Agriculture workers like Kutias who cultivate someone’s land,
(ii) Contingent workers (Peti sardars and baidars),
(iii) Quarry workers,
(iv) Lumber workers (Aarawalas),
(v) Individual workers engaged in business sectors, shops like: (ration, bakeries, liquor, medicine, hardware, etc.), tea shops, canteens, and tours and travel.
All these workers come under the Scheduled Employment of the aforesaid Act. Focussing on the second aspect of the Act, it is highly desirable for a comprehensive data collection from;
(a) individuals living in unauthorised lands, in relation to their employment, and also, (b) individuals who run shop (ration shop, tyre repair, grill shop etc.), hotel and restaurant on a leased license.
The office order is not specific on the aforementioned “unorganized (unregulated)/individual workers.”
The Notification lists the workers who are to be registered however this list is limited and would exclude many other categories of workers, the list should be exhaustive with provisions to include other non listed categories of workers.
The notification also excludes workers in organised sector like Pharmacy Companies and other factories which will leave out a major chunk of workers, the Act must include these workers for their protection and for tracking of migrant workers in the state.
The Act is silent in on GREF and Central departments like CPWD workers, power project labourers, including the Army etc, which would lead to exclusion of these workers.
Since the government is taking these new measures it would be appropriate if they can take additional steps to regulate the wages of these workers so that they are not exploited and stop the unusual wage rate charged by workers in the construction sectors which has inflated the cost of construction in the state.
Strict rules must be implemented to regulate the wage rate and punish those who break them. Rules must be framed to stop anyone from engaging unregistered workers and appropriate punishment must be prescribed.
The ‘Form’ for registration only asks for state of origin which is not enough to track a person, it must include the full address of his home state with location of the nearest police station etc.
The Rules must be set that the registration must be renewed every year. All Panchayat wards and Municipal wards must have the list of workers in their area and facilities to renew registration and register in these wards must also be given. Power to inspect and fine rule breakers must be given to officials and elected members at the ground level.
The workers registration is also essential to keep a track of migrant workers and stop illegal migrants and prevent crime, spread of diseases etc in the state.
The other aspect of the order and the ensuing process widely discussed is the very structure of the “Task Force.” The SDM could have been a better suited nodal officer for the Municipal Areas and the inclusion of Ward Panchayat would have been a better empowerment for the proposed team work.
Furthermore, the purported “data collection form” must include an option for mentioning the thrust documents, so as whether the individuals possess COI/RC or just a Voter card/Aadhar card/Ration card of Sikkim or elsewhere, or some such documents for the foreign nationals.
The step taken by the government to register workers is a very important step to check migration which has led to the population explosion in the state. Such unregulated migration has been the root cause of demographic change and the decline of original local population of the state.
The present notification is a welcome step but it would be better if NGOs, labourers association, other association and concerned citizens be invited to give their suggestions to improve this law so that the interest of the workers and the safety of the state and local population can be protected.
Notwithstanding, it is high time that the border check posts like Rangpo and Melli must be manned with highly skilled and faithful law enforcement officials for a proper identification of the individuals crossing the border either in vehicles or on foot. Infiltration in the guise of individual workers cannot be ignored.
Let us not put national security at stake.
Active participation of Sikkimese people from all sections is highly warranted.
Let all the efforts made by the present administration not go in vain and make this a win-win success so that all the Sikkimese feel safe and secure in their own homeland.
Tseten Tashi Bhutia,
Former Minister and Convenor, SIBLAC