KL NEWS NETWORK
Chief Justice of India, Justice T S Thakur Saturday called for inculcating consciousness in the society towards the dignity and the rights of labour class.
“In the Indian culture the worker is traditionally regarded as ‘Vishwakarma’. The country cannot be happy, if the worker is unhappy,” Justice T S Thakur said while addressing the inaugural session of 2-day workshop on “Workers in Unorganized Sector – Their Aspirations, Challenges and Way Forward”.
The state-level workshop is being jointly organized by Jammu and Kashmir State Legal Services Authority and J&K Labour Department under the aegis of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) at General Zorawar Singh Auditorium of Jammu University, an official spokesperson said this evening.
Emphasizing that laws alone can’t bring about the desired change, the Chief Justice said the combined and concerted efforts of the judiciary, labour unions, industrialists and the Government, will bring about the results which are not only in the interest of the labour class but the country’s economy as well. He said successful initiatives in this regard taken by various Governments are worth emulating.
The Chief Justice, who is also the Patron-in-Chief of NALSA, called for giving importance to innovative schemes for workers especially in the unorganized sector. He said Labour Unions too should join in the effort to nurture innovation. He said there is a thin line that separates the good of the industry and the good of the industrialist. Similarly, he added, there is a thin line that separates the good of the worker and the good of the labour union; the good of the nation and the good of the government.
The Chief Justice said NALSA has formulated six legal service schemes for the enforcement of the welfare measures launched by the Centre and state governments for the benefit of unorganized workers.
The Chief Justice said that unorganized sector covers most of the rural labour and a substantial part of urban labour. “In this sector wage-paid labour is largely non-unionized due to casual and seasonal nature of employment and scattered location of enterprises,” he said and added this sector is marked by low income, unstable and irregular employment, and lack of protection either from legislation or trade unions. He said the unorganized sector uses mainly labour-intensive and indigenous technology. “The workers in unorganized sector are so scattered that the implementation of the legislation is very inadequate and ineffective. There are hardly any unions in this sector to act as watch-dogs,” Chief Justice said.
Chief Justice stressed for conducting training programmes for the workers working in unorganized sector and small scale industries with a view to develop awareness about their problems, difficulties and protective labour laws at work place and help them in finding solutions as well as equip them in developing their own organizations
He said such seminars also help to provide platform for academicians; researchers and social activists to discuss exclusion, health hazards, migration, exploitation happening every day in the unorganized sectors of India and to suggest their inclusion.
He stressed the need for launching massive awareness campaigns to sensitize people about the schemes launched by State and Central Government for uplift of the workers in the unorganized sector.
Speaking on the occasion, Justice Anil R Dave, Judge of the Supreme Court and the Executive Chairman NALSA said more than 80% workforce in India is part of the unorganized sector. “Even the benefits of various schemes started for their welfare are proving ineffective due to poor implementation by the respective governments”, he said and added the Supreme Court has time and again emphasized the need for proper implementation of welfare schemes for workers by the Centre as well as state governments.
He said that most of the workforce in unorganized sector gets wages lower than the fixed minimum wages. “Though there is a Construction Workers’ Protection Act but the authorities responsible for its implementation have shown little sensitivity”, he said and added NALSA has devised ‘Legal Services to the Workers in the Unorganized Sector Scheme 2010’ enabling NALSA and the State Legal Services Authorities to act as watchdog for expeditious implementation of welfare schemes for labourers.
Highlighting the purpose of workshop, Justice Fakkir Mohamed Kalifulla, Judge Supreme Court of India said the purpose of organizing such workshops is to co-opt all the stakeholders to play their role for the betterment of the unorganized workers adding that this would cover legal framework for workers.
He said the working condition of unorganized workers are poor and stressed that maximum wages should be fixed besides due care should be taken for their healthcare and proper education of the children. “We should work collectively for the socio-economic transformation of unorganized workers. Let us join together to aware the unorganized workers about their rights and pledge to enforce strictly the welfare schemes launched by the government for their overall uplift”, Justice Kalifulla said.
Speaking on the occasion, Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar, Chief Justice of Jammu & Kashmir High Court said the concept of Social Security Act enacted for unorganized workers is aimed ensuring medical aid, financial assistance for such workers as most of them remain on move to look for work. He said need is to initiate adequate measures for sensitizing unorganized class of workers so that they are able to get the benefit of the schemes launched by the State and Central Governments for their welfare. He said these workers know little about the schemes as most of them are moving from place to place in search of work. He said everyone has a role to play for uplift of this section.
He called upon the lawyers, NGOs, Trade Union Leaders, law students associated with Legal Service Authority, officials of labour department, legal aid clinics and other concerned organizations to intensify their efforts for disseminating information among the working class for availing the benefits of the welfare schemes and protection of their rights.
In his welcome address, Justice Mohammad Yaqoob Mir Executive Chairman J&K SLSA appreciated the efforts of Chief Justice of Supreme Court of India for giving new impetus to NALSA for the maximum benefit of the organized and unorganized workforce of the country. He said labour force in unorganized sector is the backbone of the country’s economy and it is the duty of all of us to safeguard their rights and ensure all possible benefits to them for their socio-economic transformation.
Justice Mir, threw detailed light on the achievements registered in the state under SALSA. He said several schemes are being implemented through social welfare department but benefits fully are not reaching to the deserved working-force. He stressed strict enforcement of the Act for monitory help to this section.
Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey, Chairman High Court Legal service Committee, in his speech highlighted the activities of State Legal Services Authority and said that every effort is being made to provide legal assistance to unorganized workers of the State. He emphasized the need for strict implementation of the different provision of the Act and the schemes launched by the Centre and State Government for the welfare of this section.
Speaking on the occasion Chief Secretary, Mr B R Sharma said 279904 workers in unorganized sector are presently registered with J&K Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board. He said out of Rs 465.73 crore received as cess by the board, Rs 154.83 crore have been spent under various welfare schemes for the workers.
He said a major initiative towards providing protection to the workers in the unorganized sector was the enactment of Building & Other Constructions Workers Act of 1996 and Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act of 1996 by the State Government. “Objective of this initiative is to regulate the employment and conditions of service and to provide safety, health and welfare measures for the building and other construction workers,” he said and added that following the framing of rules under these Acts, the Government constituted the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board to provide assistance to the workers in case of injury, temporary/ permanent disability due to accident at work place, marriage assistance, treatment of chronic diseases of registered workers/dependents, maternity benefits to the female workers, funeral assistance to the worker/family and assistance to the dependent in case of the registered construction workers besides, education assistance.
He said the State Government has also framed J&K Unorganized Workers Social Security rules and has also constituted J&K Social Security Board for formulation and execution of welfare schemes for these workers.
Sharma commended the role of Jammu and Kashmir State Legal Services Authority (JKSLSA) in reaching out to the workers in the unorganized sector by conducting legal awareness programmes and assisting them in availing benefits of the Government’s welfare schemes.
He hailed the SLSA and the Labour Department for organizing the workshop which he said will go a long way in sensitizing the workers in the unorganized sector regarding their rights and the welfare schemes in vogue.
Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council, Haji Anayat Ali, former Chief Justices, present and former Judges of High Court and other courts, Advocate General, government officials, representatives of Bar Associations and Trade Unions and law students were also present on the occasion.
Earlier, the Chief Justice of India and other dignitaries released Newsletter, Handbook of different welfare schemes and booklet on performance of J&K SLSA.