Union Labour and Employment Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar on Wednesday said that, “a number of unprecedented steps have been taken by the Union Government for labour welfare and employment including for migrant workers across India during COVID-19 pandemic”.
Elaborating he said, labour is in the concurrent list and therefore, both State and Central Governments can legislate on the issues. Further, most of the Central Labour Acts, including the Migrant Labour Act, are being implemented exclusively by the State Government.
As per the provisions of the Migrant Labour Act, the registration of migrant workers has to be done by the respective State Governments and the data also has to be maintained by them. However, in the unprecedented scenario of COVID-19, the Ministry of Labour & Employment took the initiative to collect the data of migrant workers who are going to their home states during lockdown. On the basis of information collected from various State Governments, it is estimated around one crore migrant workers have gone back to their source State during COVID-19.
The Labour Minister further added that various initiatives have been taken for the welfare of Migrant Workers during lockdown.
Immediately after the lockdown, directions were sent from the Ministry of Labour & Employment to all the State Governments/UTs instructing them to provide financial assistance to construction workers from the Building & Other Construction Workers’ Cess Fund. It is estimated that the highest proportion of migrant workers are construction workers.
Till date, about two crore migrant workers have been provided Rs. 5000 crore directly in their bank accounts from Building & Other Construction Workers’ Cess Fund being maintained by various States.
In order to resolve the grievances of migrant workers during lockdown, the Ministry of Labour & Employment set up 20 Control Rooms all over the country.
During lockdown, more than 15,000 complaints of the workers were resolved through these Control Rooms. Further due to the intervention of the Ministry of Labour & Employment more than two lakh workers were paid their due wages amounting to about Rs. 295 crore.
After the lockdown, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana with a financial package of Rs. 1.7 lakh crore was launched to help poor, needy and unorganised sector workers of the country.
Under this package, 80 crore people have been provided 5 Kg. Wheat/Rice and 1 Kg. pulses each. Free of cost food grains will now be provided up to November, 2020 to all the beneficiaries. Aim of the Government is to ensure that no one is without food during this pandemic and challenging time.
Per day wages under MGNREGA have also been enhanced from Rs. 182 to Rs. 202.
The Government has further announced measures to strengthen Infrastructure Logistics, Capacity Building, Governance and Administrative Reforms for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Processing Sectors.
Santosh Kumar Gangwar also informed that the Government has launched the PM SVANidhi Scheme to facilitate collateral free working capital loan upto Rs.10,000/- of one-year tenure, to approximately 50 lakh street vendors, to resume their businesses.
In order to facilitate employment of migrant workers who have gone back to their home state, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan has been initiated in 116 districts in Mission Mode. Under this campaign, rural infrastructure would be built with involvement of these migrant workers and about Rs. 50,000/- crores would be spent for this purpose.
In a similar manner, the Transport Ministry has initiated many projects involving migrant workers for building of Roads, Highways etc. in order to facilitate employment of migrant workers.
20 lakh crore financial package under the Atmanirbhar Bharat has been launched specifically to create employment opportunities for migrant workers, workers of unorganized sector, strengthening of MSME Sector and promoting rural economy. It includes a plethora of initiatives for all these sectors.
In order to provide minimum financial assistance to the workers through their EPF Account, the Ministry of Labour & Employment under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana has permitted all the EPF members to withdraw 75% of their total provident fund deposited in their EPF Account. Till date, about Rs. 39,000/- crore have been withdrawn by the members of EPFO.
In order to facilitate migrant workers who are returning back to the Destination State for work, the Ministry of Labour & Employment has issued Advisory Guidelines for all the State Governments/UTs on 27th July, 2020. Under these guidelines, States/UTs have been directed to nominate a State Level Nodal Officer to coordinate the implementation of various measures for the welfare of migrant workers who are coming back for employment.
Further, the State of Origin and Destination State will also coordinate for screening and testing of migrant workers as per the protocol devised by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. States have also been directed to prepare a proper database of migrant workers for their easy identification and welfare measures among them. This data would also facilitate enrolling them to various Social Security Schemes of the Government of India.