UP's move against workers

Kashmir Times. Dated: 5/27/2020 1:02:11 AM

UP government's proposal for permission on employment elsewhere will hurt the interests of workers instead of serving them

The observations of Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Sunday about the problems by the workers, who move out of the state to earn their livelihoods, do not go down well in the interest of those, the government wants to serve. It is all the more unfortunate that instead of protecting their interests across India of workers hailing from the biggest state of the country, the government will be harming their future prospects. His announcement that a 'Migration Commission' will be formed to help the workers, who have returned to UP amid lockdown from other parts of the country is unlikely to serve the purpose. The Commission proposed task to find ways and means for guaranteed social security to workers, provide them employment as per their skills appears to be an admission by him that it does not have these provisions for its own people. Yogi Adityanath's criticism of other states for not taking care of workers from UP during the lockdown is likely to face a backlash. There is no denying that fact that these workers not only from UP but also other states taking up jobs in the informal sector face problems in the absence of welfare schemes, insurance, legal support, unemployment allowance pan India. His concern for the dignity of the workers from the state in places of work is welcome. But he should have borne in mind that such schemes should be formulated in his home state first and provide a cue to other states. But an intervention on such an important issue framed by the current public health emergency assumed a problematic overtone when he said that 'without out prior permission, our people cannot be taken by other states'. Putting it in simple words, what the UP CM has proposed is against the interests of the workers, he is professing to protect. It also goes against the fundamental right granted by Indian Constitution under Article 19 that guarantees citizens the right to move freely throughout the country. His proposal also goes against the citizens' right to take up employment wherever it is gets better wages and satisfactory to the worker. In fact, looking at the large picture, the central government should take a cue from some of the states which guarantee minimum wage and protection to the workers irrespective of their geographical location.
So far as the issue of stranded and vulnerable migrant workers is concerned, the Centre's response to the situation in the wake of lockdown and pandemic is questionable. Rough estimates suggest that two million workers have returned to their native villages and home towns in UP during the past two months after the March 25, 2020 country-wide lockdown threw them out of employment and without money.
The UP government mobilised buses to bring back stranded migrants, a large number of them have had to undertake long and difficult journeys to reach their destinations. Earlier this month, the UP government sparred with the government of Maharashtra over logistics for the returning migrants. Only last week, it engaged in a battle of one-upmanship with the Opposition party Congress over buses to transport workers back to the state. Unfortunately, on this issue, the Yogi Adityanath government does not seem to be an exception. Some buses from Jharkhand had reportedly been turned back from the Bengal border, the Bihar government gave only a reluctant nod to bringing migrants by Shramik Special trains, Jharkhand has accused Chhattisgarh of sending back people who tested positive for Coronavirus , and it took a public uproar for the Karnataka government to revoke its order cancelling trains for migrants. The UP government's proposal can be best summed up as an attempt to use the health emergency created by the pandemic to give itself undue powers over its citizens. The decision of workers to return to their worksites, or not, is best left to them. Of course, the home states may have legitimate worries about their working conditions in their places of work. Dialogue process between states should inform efforts to create and strengthen social security for workers but not unilateral, unconstitutional decisions, which can hurt their future prospects.

 

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