Source: BMS      Date: 05 Jun 2014 20:43:24

Respected Chair and distinguished participants from all over the world,

Greetings from India!


Once again we have assembled here to deliberate and shape the destiny of the world of work. I take this opportunity to congratulate ILO for bringing for discussion certain issues that are very vital for the voiceless, marginalised and vulnerable sections of the society. Changes in the political scenario in India give a new hope in heralding total transformation in the most uneasy situation in informal sector; as people have voted for ‘CHANGE’. This year, we are discussing subjects like ‘formalising the informal economy’, ‘forced labour’ as well as ‘employment’, which are very significant for a large country like India.

Perhaps India has the largest informal economy in the world. About 94% of workers in India is in the unorganised sector and only 6% is organised. The majority work as casual agricultural wage workers including a sizable proportion of women workers.The difference between the terms ‘informal economy’ and ‘unorganised economy’ is very narrow but rather irrelevant in the Indian context considering the gravity of the issue. Ideas like informal economy, informal or economic units, informal enterprises, informal workers are overlapping, though they are quite different from one another. Ultimately everything should converge upon the human side of the problem, viz. the informal workers. In simple terms, Informal workers are those who are not protected by any law. Hence under constant demands from trade unions, Government was compelled to legislate the “Unorgansied workers’ social security Act, 2008” which ensures minimum protection to the workers in the informal economy. This is a solace to millions and millions, in spite of its implementation deficiencies. Hence to ensure that the law reaches out up to the last worker is a great challenge to all the tripartite constituents in India. BMS has taken up the Himalayan task of “organising the unorganised” which is part of the process of ‘formalising the informal economy’.

$img_titleDirector General has, while discussing ‘centenary goals’, rightly raised concerned about weaning away jobs, imbalances created on account of pollution, growing gap between rich and poor
etc. Director General of ILO has brought out a report on “Fair Migration”. Tens of thousands of Indians migrate every year to the Middle East, Europe and the US as temporary contract workers, domestic servants, construction workers, or other low-skill labourers apart from other categories. Many are facing adverse work place situations and untold miseries in different countries.

We find uncivilised labour practices all over the world like low paid wages, unsatisfactory working conditions etc. which is rampant in informal economy. There is a “grey zone” in which the boundary separating forced labour and poor working conditions remains difficult to define.In a compelling situation, hapless lots have no other go except to submit to the gruelling situation and poor working conditions without protest. Coercion is often used to discipline the workers and to curb protests against frequent breaches. It is the poorest and the most vulnerable who are the most sufferers.

The problem of bonded labour arises due to the broader socio-economic problems. The debt bondage ripens into bonded system when the wage and service conditions are bad. Supreme Court of India in Asiad Workers’ Case of 1982 gave a new dimension to the issue by treating working below statutory minimum wages as forced labour under Article 23 of the Constitution of India.

Contract labour is an area where workers are exploited in inhuman working conditions. At every termination of contractor, there is an artificial break and the contract labour also gets terminated. Even the permanent labour in the formal sector is being drastically brought under the contract labour regime where workers are denied job security, sufficient wages and lawful working conditions.

Human trafficking is the world's third largest organised crime after narcotics and arms trafficking. It is the brutal part of forced labour especially among children. Men, women, and children are trafficked for the purposes of forced labour, bonded labour, forced prostitution, commercial sexual exploitation, marriage, domestic labour, commercial gay and lesbian relationships, hiring wombs, organ transplantation and begging as well. Let trade unions all over the world act in unison along with seeking stronger involvement of employers’ organizations, labour judiciary and other civil society groupsto free our brothers and sisters from forced and compulsory labour.

We need to have a fast track route on formalising the informal sector as starving people cannot wait. So revolutionary transformation is required which should be visible to everyone in the immediate future especially to the new generation. Any change that may come, may be after a century, is not acceptable, as starving people cannot wait. Hence we are anxious to see the outcome of the discussions in this session of ILO.

Thank u.

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