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Privatisation no excuse to violate labour law

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, May 2: A newspaper employee describing how he was fired along with more than 300 others 19 months ago broke down on the stage as Delhi Legal Services Authority celebrated International Labour Day last evening.

Participants discussed Contract Labour And Its Dilemma and heard complaints about employer violations-- ranging from non-payment of wages, non-contribution to provident fund to letting workers suffer in unhealthy conditions or employment termination.

Asked whether the Authority proposed to take any steps, for instance in the mass sacking, its Member Secretary Sangita Dhingra Sehgal said the victims had just approched it yesterday. ''The matter will be looked into.'' She also told audience about a legal services clinic at the Capital's Shaheed Bhagat Singh Place which offers victims help round the clock.

Speaking on the occasion, Delhi High Court Acting Chief Justice Vijender Jain drew attention to the plight of 93 per cent Indian workers in the unorganised sector who are seldom acknowledged by the society.

Releasing a booklet titled Unorganised Labour: Rights and Remedies, Justice Jain stressed steps to end their exploitation.

Artists from the Information and Broadcasting Ministry performed a skit highlighting the rights of unorganised workers.

Economic privatisation or liberalisation were no excuses for violating labour laws, speakers who included judges, activists, artists and a minister, underscored.

State Industry and Labour Minister Mangat Ram Singhal acknowledged instances in which recovery of employees' dues suffered because employers disappear or reopen under a different name.

Social activist Nafisa Ali suggested requiring companies engaging contract labour to furnish bank guarantees to ensure that workers get their wages should their employer try to dodge.

Television actress Sushma Seth suggested staging more skits in worker areas to educate them on their rights. ''They should be able to say that is my situation-- and remedy.'' Amity Law School founder Ashok Chauhan pledged to donate a vehicle for a mobile law clinic the Authority plans to run.

Earlier, speakers complained how workers paid less than minimum wages were forced to sign receipts for standard wages, work without necessary protection of masks or gloves or subjected to sexual harassment.

One speaker described how a private electricity company disowned a lineman injured in the course of work-- to escape medical costs.


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