1. We, the unorganized sector workers of India, who
number 37 crores and who constitute 93% of the total
work force of our country, of whom a substantial number
are women, petition the august Parliament of India through
you for recognizing our plight as also the crying need
for redress through an appropriate law.
We are not a burden on society, for we happen to be
the society itself, given our large number and the
larger number of our dependents. Generations of neglect
and indifference have consistently added to our loss
of dignity, to our misery and to our difficulties.
If, as a country, we are faced with problems of bonded
labour, child labour and other social ills, we can
trace their origins to this indifference and neglect.
That we contribute nearly two-thirds of India's G
D P is forgotten; that we contribute significantly
to the alleviation of the problem of unemployment
is side-lined; that we are the ultimate sufferers
of liberalization and globalization is glossed over.
Silently we have suffered all iniquities and injustices.
We do not propose to do so any further we are confident
that, at your hands, we will get the needed legislative
mandate that will improve our status and thus enhance
the prestige and strength of our nation.
What do we need by way of such legislative mandate?
problems and concerns are too well known to be elaborated
here. Successive commissions and studies have dealt
with this .The latest, The Second National Labour
Commission, which was asked to work out the details
of umbrella legislation for us, did produce a draft
law. The Ministry Of Labour of the Government of India
circulated the draft law and organized in November
2002 a National Seminar to consider this draft law.
The sub group of the National Seminar which examined
the legislative proposals was not satisfied and demanded
action on specific lines; the conclusions of the subgroup
were endorsed and adopted by the seminar. However
even these were ignored in to by the Government of
India as is evident from the succession of drafts
that kept coming out of the Ministry of Labour. The
latest of such drafts was no different.
We reiterate that we are producers of wealth for the
country and do not want to be considered mere beneficiaries
of state's munificence and treated as such. We want
to be partners and participants in the process of
formulating the law and schemes there under; we also
want to be participants in the implementation of schemes
through tripartite bodies at various levels in which
we are represented in adequate strength.
of employment, payment of minimum wages based on the
conclusions of the 15th Indian Labour Conference and
supplemented by the judgment of the Supreme Court
of India in the Raptakos Brett case, commitment to
a policy on social security as the right of every
Indian, provision of appropriate social security measures,
and more -- the steps that will enable us to live
in dignity as socially useful members of our society
are matters that should inform the provisions of the
Articles 41 and 43A of the Constitution of India are
the bases for our demands.
Specifically, we want the following:-
Given its size, there must be a separate law for agricultural
workers, on the model of the Kerala law. The law can
include workers engaged in horticulture, pisciculture,
silviculture, poultry farming, animal husbandry, dairying
and allied activities.
The 1996 law on building and construction workers
needs to be amended and made comprehensive on the
lines suggested by the National Campaign Committee
for Construction Workers under the chairmanship of
Justice V R Krishna Iyer, retired judge of the Supreme
Court of India.
The law for unorganized sector workers should not
be merely welfare oriented but also provide for regulation
of employment, guaranteed minimum employment earnings,
minimum wage as indicated above, fixation of piece
rates in a manner that would enable a diligent worker
earn after a day's honest work the equivalent of a
time rated daily wage, appropriate and adequate provisions
for social security including maternity entitlement,
pension, ESI, PF, gratuity etc and safety, child care
facilities, housing training and skill formation and
up gradation, fixation of wages, resolution of disputes,
protection of employment, protection of natural and
common property resources - rights, protection of
migrant labour and more, all these being implemented
through tripartite bodies at various levels in which
workers have the decisive say.
Minimize the role of central Government to providing
leadership, setting standards, co-ordination, funding
and general direction, for which it may get advice
from a high power tripartite Advisory Committee which
will advise, among others, on matters relating to
the nature of schemes to be drawn up by various Boards/Funds,
the basis for distribution of central funds among
various states and union territories/Boards/ Funds,
implementation of the law and schemes and other allied
The functions of the state/union territory Boards
must be specifically spelt out in the law; these must
be such as to enable the Boards to function effectively
and autonomously, without undue "interference"
from the state or central government. The composition
of the Board and its lower formations must be tripartite
in nature and give the pride of place to the workers
and their representatives, including adequate representation
for women workers.
The implementation of the law including implementation
of schemes must be by the tripartite bodies at the
appropriate level. In this scheme of things, there
is no place for the Workers Welfare Centers, as they
would make the whole process bureaucratic, disempowering
the workers and their representatives.
A single board and a single scheme would not serve
the purpose we have in view; there must be provision
in the law for the appropriate government to set up
as many Boards as are necessary for different groups
of employments. As conditions vary from place to place
and from state to state, the grouping of employments
will have to be decided by the appropriate governments,
on the basis of the suggestions made by the representatives
of Unorganised Sector Workers.
The fixation of wages and more particularly, the piece
rate wages must be enabled to be fixed by the concerned
Board keeping in view the principle that a diligent
piece rated worker must be able to earn a time rated
daily wage for eight hours of work.
The law must prescribe a minimum percentage of the
GDP to be set apart for social security and this percentage
must be raised every year until it is able to provide,
say after ten years or so, a level of social security
that is reasonably satisfactory.
There should be a provision for a Complaints Committee
on sexual harassment in the work place for Unorganized
The National Campaign Committee for Unorganized Sector
Workers, of which Retired Justice V R Krishna Iyer
is the President, Is currently engaged in the preparation
of a draft law incorporating the above and other matters
and hopes to get it ready soon. Meanwhile, it is our
earnest request that our petition carrying the signatures
of millions of workers is sympathetically considered
and appropriate action taken. We will be grateful
if an opportunity is afforded to some of our representatives
to appear before you and make an oral submission also.
Another matter of great importance to us: The National
Rural Employment Guarantee Bill, 2004, introduced
in Parliament in December 2004, suffers, in our view,
from many deficiencies and calls for amendments that
(a) Time bound extension to the whole of rural India;
(b) extension of the law to semi-skilled and skilled
work with appropriate wage protection, keeping in
view that a very large number of us are semi-skilled
and skilled in a variety of occupations and any proposal
to confine the guarantee to unskilled manual work
will result in obliteration of our skills and force
us to migrate to urban areas for employment suitable
to our skills.
Removal of restriction of the law to only BPL households.
(d) The law should be put permanently on the statute
book and should not be only for a limited period.
We, on behalf of 37crores of us, thank you, in
the hope, that our petition receives the utmost consideration
at your hands.