High Court bats for migrant workers’ welfare

The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court today directed the central and Tamil Nadu governments to implement a series of suggestions put forward by a lawyer for the welfare of migrant workers.

The suggestions include a comprehensive law for all unorganised labourers, particularly inter-state migrant workers, PAN and Aadhaar cards for them, group insurance and education facility for their children.

A bench of justices S Vimala and T Krishnavalli forwarded the suggestions of advocate Jeya Karthick to the Labour and Employment department of the central and state governments for follow-up action.

The lawyer, who had put forward the suggestions while highlighting the plight of migrant labourers, also wanted the Labour department to maintain a register of migrant labourers, containing details, including their terms of employment.

It was closing a habeas corpus petition filed by Hari Prasad Malgam of Madhya Pradesh, seeking to set free five of his relatives, allegedly in the illegal custody of their employer running a borewell company in Cumbum in the neighbouring Theni district.

A habeas corpus petition is filed to ensure that a person under illegal detention is produced in the court and set free.

The bench noted that the Inter-State Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 had no provision for the protection of individual employees.

The petitioner had alleged that his relatives were under the custody of their employer since March 12 and that they were beaten up by the latter’s henchmen.

During the hearing, the employer alleged that the petitioner had taken a huge amount while agreeing to work along with his relatives.

He had also taken away cash and articles worth Rs 3 lakh from the employer and a police complaint was lodged in this connection. It was, however, withdrawn after a compromise was worked out and hence the petition was not maintainable.

The court then said the petition was liable to be dismissed with a heavy cost, but in view of the poor economic conditions of the labourers, it was sparing them the penalty.

It said the suggestions of the petitioner were well taken and directed the governments to implement them as they would provide legal benefits to the migrant workers.

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