How many of us in cities and towns would know that behind the roads we drive on, the buildings we stay in (or work in or shop in or watch a movie in), and the other amenities behind which infrastructural construction has taken place, lie a horrid story of labourers' exploitation?
This newsreport covers a protest demonstration in Bombay outside the Labour Commissioner's office this week seeking a halt to such exploitation.
The demonstrators issued a press release later. Here is what it said:
NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF PEOPLE'S MOVEMENTS, SHRAMIK JANATA SANGH
First Floor, Haji Habib Building, Naigaon Cross Road , Dadar (E), Mumbai, P.No. 022-24150529
Press Release 3 May,2007
More than 3000 laborers-workers from various slum communities of Mumbai today assembled at the Labour Commissioner office to assert and demand for their rights entitled under various labour welfare legislations. Declaring themselves not to be unorganized rather 'unprotected', demanded their due share against their contribution in building and running Mumbai, the financial capital of this country. In the afternoon a delegation of labourers and activist met Shri Sanap, Labour Commisioner Mumbai. The delegation made him aware of the violations and non-implementation of various labour welfare legislations that are in place but are not being implemented. Specific examples of non-implementation of Inter-State Migrant Workers Welfare Act of 1979 and Contact Labour Welfare and Regulation Act of 1970.
He agreed to immediately look into select cases of violations of rules by contractors and principle employers which include many government authorities like MMRDA & BMC. He also approved of the demand of having full registration of all the worker-labourers and will work towards the implementation of the same.
It is well known that out of the total of 60 lakh slum dwellers, more than 11 lakh are inter state migrant workers who are engaged in construction and allied activities and thus the real builders of the city. Ironically these people, who are building homes for others are themselves homeless and their homes are being demolished to hand over the land for real estate development or beautification projects.
It was demanded to have single window counters for the labourers where all their grievances can be settled and all information regarding their rights be provided. The officials also expressed their concern to the liberalization of the labour laws whereby even the powers and authority of the labour welfare department and officials are being eroded and diluted under the SEZ Act, which the delegation demanded to be repealed.
Demand for consultation with worker's organizations and unions before drafting bill for providing security benefits to the un-organized sector workers was also made. On the lines of National Rural Employment Guarantee act, enactment of an act providing for employment guarantee in urban areas was also made.
Lal Babu, Mohan Chavan, Simpreet Singh (9969363065), R Ghosalkar, Medha Patkar