#India- There is a credibility crisis at all levels of government- Aruna Roy


, TNN | Jun 2, 2013, 05.58 AM IST

This week activist Aruna Roy walked out of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC), complaining about this government’s ideological bias and obsession with growth. She talks to Padmaparna Ghosh about the dilution of the social sector focus.This is the second time that you have resigned from the NAC. What brought you back in 2010?

My decisions to join or leave the NAC have been taken collectively by the organization I work with – the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS). I left in 2008 because at that time the NAC didn’t have a chairperson and was not playing the role it was supposed to. I returned in 2010 because there were many issues (such as the demand for a Right to Food bill) that needed a stronger policy framework and I felt it would be useful to channel the input that comes from many campaigns. The NAC has sent many important recommendations to the government. The recent NAC recommendations on the pre-legislative process if implemented immediately will provide all citizens an opportunity to participate in the making of laws. The need is to ensure that at least some of these recommendations are enacted and implemented.

How tough was it to find common ground between civil society and the government?

The agenda of the NAC is set by the government’s political commitments. Within that pre-deter mined agenda, the NAC has worked to incorporate civil society opinion to advise the government on how to take its agenda forward. NAC II has evolved detailed procedures such as the formation of working groups, which has allowed a broader consultative process. The NAC has maintained a focus on issues of significance to the poor and the social sector such as the MGNREGA and the Right to Food, and has taken up specific issues such as nomadic tribals and bonded labourers. One of the NAC’s important contributions has been to build the understanding that delivery systems and democratic governance are crucial to the effective implementation of any social sector initiative. Therefore, the RTI, and other transparency and accountability initiatives such as the social audit and recommendations for a pre-legislative process have been taken up.

How do you respond to those that call MGNREGA “demand-driven distress employment” and, therefore, ineligible for minimum wage?

The Minimum Wage Act came into effect in 1948 and has remained the bedrock for workers’ rights. Therefore the importance of payment of minimum wages to MGNREGA workers extends beyond the MGNREGA itself. If the Government refuses to pay minimum wages to workers on its own programme, it can never enforce the law for the millions of unorganised workers in the agricultural and industrial sectors. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that no one can even opt to work for less than the minimum wage, no employer can use a lack of resources as an excuse and any labour that is paid less should be considered forced.

The argument that the government does not have to pay minimum wages to people in distress only proves the SC’s point. In fact this issue goes straight to the core of the battle around MGNREGA. People who have been profiting from exploitation through payment of distress wages are now reacting because the MGNREGA has given workers the capacity to fight for minimum wages even outside the programme. By violating the Minimum Wages Act, the government is threatening to destroy the most significant labour protection measure in India.

How do you intend to press for its implementation from outside NAC?

The NAC is an advisory body. That is why I feel it necessary to concentrate on advocating in the public domain for the acceptance and implementation of these recommendations. I do not believe that a democratic government can keep refusing to respect the constitutional entitlement of a minimum wage. Public pressure needs to be built up around this issue, as we close in on elections.

What do you believe you have accomplished during your tenure at the NAC?

The NAC gave me an opportunity to raise multiple issues of concern to people’s movements and campaigns. It played a very important role in the passage of landmark legislations such as the RTI and MGNREGA. It was because of the NAC that experience from people’s campaigns was processed into powerful and effective draft laws. Even though this was often whittled down by the bureaucracy it served as a standard. My association with the NAC helped strengthen causes of the poor and marginalized I have been associated with over the last few years.

UPA-2’s credibility has been damaged in the recent past. Would you vote them back in 2014?

The crisis in credibility today is at all levels of government. Effective implementation is as important as the legislations themselves. Our solutions do not lie in thoughts between one election and another but in addressing the lack of transparency and accountability in governance structures. My politics has always been to enhance the participation of people within the democratic frameworks so that their voices are heard not just once in five years but every day

 

Press Release- Invisible World of Domestic Workers Exposed at the Public Hearing #Vaw


Domestic Workers Demand Their Due Share and Labour Rights

New Delhi, February 11 : The hand that feeds, cares for children, keeps the house clean and shining is often left unattended, uncared for and at times bruised and beaten. That’s the world of domestic workers working in lakhs of Delhi homes, striving to earn a dignified living and raising a family in 21st century rising India. Domestic work, an increasing necessity in this era of globalisation, expanding horizons for women, opening up opportunities but also creating a class of working slaves in mills, offices and homes. The emerging reality is contradictory like capitalism itself where a certain class of women have gained prominence, access to diversified jobs and equality in jobs and pay but on the other hand, the women in domestic work and in the unorganised and unprotected sector have to strive for basic facilities, from minimum wages, fixed hours of work, holidays, to bonus and most importantly value of their work, respect and recognition, something which workers of the world struggled to achieve in the 20th century. These issues were raised by nearly 30 women who deposed before a panel comprising of Kalyani Menon Sen, Kalpana Mehta, Subhash Lomte, Bilas Bhongade, Tarun Kanti Bose, Aneema and Neelima in a public hearing on the theme ‘Women in the Unorganised (Unprotected) Sector in the Era of Globalization’ organised by Shahri Mahila Kaamgar Union, an affiliate of National Alliance of People’s Movements at Indian Social Institute.

 

The hearing was attended by nearly 250 domestic workers from Gautampuri, Rohini, Faridabad,and other colonies of Delhi and some others from Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

“I have been working for 28 years and only get Rs. 1200. When I fell sick, my employers did not give me leave to go to a doctor. I am close to 50 years and find it difficult to continue doing this work. I do not get any medical benefits nor pension. What will happen to me I wonder? How will I survive?” asks a disillusioned Asha, one of the deposer’s in the gathering.

 

Anita who is now part of the Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union narrated how she was brought to the city by a placement agent. “I come from a poor family. In 2011, a placement agent convinced my parents to send me to Delhi for a better life. I was only 14 years and had to leave school. I did not want to do this work but had no option. Many times I wanted to leave but the agent forced me to continue working. Finally, I was rescued by the Union”

From the panelists, Subhash Lomte throwing light on how young girls are brought from villages to city with the promise of a better life and education said that “we must continue to fight for equal wages and pension”. The minimum wage should be adjusted to inflation and the pension amount should be atleast Rs. 2000. The age for women pensioners should be 50 years and for men it should be 55 years. The pension amount for women should get directly transferred to her bank account so that it is not misused by her husband. He urged the domestic workers from Delhi to all gather at Jantar Mantar on 6th March and raise the issue of a ‘minimum wage’ with the government.

We all have to sell our labour but we cannot sell our labour without your labour “said Kalpana Mehta, a panelist from Indore as she addressed the gathering. “Always remember that the work you do is extremely important without which other homes will not function” she was quoted saying while stressing the need to give value and respect to domestic work.

The gathering passed the following resolutions at the end of the hearing:

A uniform law needs to be made for the welfare of domestic workers. Untill then Minimum Wages Act and other Labour laws must be applied to this category of workers too.

A body comprising of representatives from the government and domestic workers needs to be set up to monitor their real situation.

The minimum wages, working hours and time of remuneration should be fixed for Domestic Workers. Strict measures should be taken against those who flaunt it.

Complete profiles of all urban workers, their employers and all organizations linked to them should be done. A government agency should be set up for this purpose.

Other than weekly, monthly, yearly and sick leave, provisions should be made for emergency leave also for domestic workers. Pregnant workers should be given special leave of three months. All these leaves should be paid.

Strict punishment should be given to all those employers, placement agents and police personnel who subject domestic workers to physical, sexual and other kinds of abuse.

Other than financial aid, the government should provide other kinds of human support to those domestic workers who are crisis-struck.

All kind of middlemen and contractors should be removed between domestic workers and their employers.

To ensure security of livelihood, domestic workers and their families should be given insurance by the government

Along with an annual bonus and future investment options, annual wage increase adjusted with inflation should be given to these workers.

Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union also resolved to continue their struggle for decent work and ensure rights of the working women and take forward the recommendations of the public hearing to the authorities concerned.

Anita Kapoor, Poonam, Madeena Begum, Mudra, Lakshmi, Asha, Seela Manswanee

on Behalf of Shahri Mahila Kaamgaar Union

Mob. 09810787686

 

 

#India – Hidden spaces- Invisible workers #Vaw #Justice


KALPANA SHARMA, The Hindu , Jan 19,2013

Invisible world. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

The HinduInvisible world. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan

TOPICS


The issue of violence perpetrated on domestic workers, largely women, remains mostly invisible and unaddressed.

The many conversations on violence against women that began on December 16 remain incomplete. We discuss the visible. We rarely mention the invisible or less visible, the violence inside closed doors, in private spaces, away from the public sphere. By this I don’t just mean the violence by family members. That is, in any case, shrouded in several impenetrable layers of silence. Apart from this, there is another form of violence, one that is largely accepted. Often the perpetrators of the violence can be women, even those who have themselves been at the receiving end of domestic violence.

This is the insidious form of violence that millions of domestic workers suffer each day in the homes where they work. It consists not just of physical or sexual attacks but of a lack of dignity, of lack of basic rights and of the absence of recognition that they deserve a fair wage for the work they do. We need to condemn and combat this hidden violence as much as we have now begun to talk about the violence on our streets.

This column has repeatedly taken up the cause of domestic workers because it is one of those under-the-radar issues that is somehow not addressed. The majority of domestic workers worldwide are women. In India, the official data puts their numbers at just seven million when it is evident that the actual number is many times more, closer to 90 million. And this figure does not take into account the children who are illegally employed for domestic work.

Worldwide, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), an estimated 53 million people are employed in people’s homes. Over 80 per cent are women. Admittedly, this too is an underestimation. A new ILO report points out that, despite international attention being paid to the issue, little is being done. In 2011, after many years of campaigning by organisations that represented domestic workers, the ILO passed the Domestic Workers Convention (No 189). Yet two years later, the Convention has still not come into force because only a handful of governments — the Philippines, Uruguay and Mauritius — have ratified it. The Philippines has gone a step further by promulgating its own law on domestic workers giving them the same rights as other workers. Not so most other countries, including India, which is among the list of countries yet to ratify this convention.

Why is such a convention or a national law specifically addressing the problems facing domestic workers needed? Precisely because of their invisibility. They work under individually negotiated contracts, have no job security and can be fired at will. There is no regulation about their working hours or minimum wage. Nor do the women get the benefits of sick leave, maternity leave or a weekly day off. Their vulnerability is exacerbated by the fact that they are not organised and, therefore, cannot resort to any kind of collective bargaining. A law would at least inform them of their rights and would make it clear to employers that, even if they continue to exploit them as they do today, they are wilfully breaking the law.

The ILO report titled “Domestic workers across the world: Global and regional statistics and the extent of legal protection” brings out several disturbing statistics. For instance, more than half the domestic workers around the world have no limitation on the normal weekly hours of work, or get a weekly off, or get paid get paid a minimum wage. An estimated 15.6 million women working as domestics do not get maternity leave or cash benefits.

The central government has drafted a policy for domestic workers, one that will ensure that they come under the ambit of existing laws that relate to the rights of workers — such as the Minimum Wages Act, the Trade Union Act, Payment of Wages Act, Workers’ Compensation Act, Maternity Benefits Act, Contract Labour Act and Equal Remuneration Act. Karnataka was the first state to fix minimum wages for domestic workers, to accept that they were entitled to a weekly off and to ban children less than 14 years of age working as domestic workers. Of course, the implementation of this policy is another story but at least a beginning has been made.

There are many layers to the issue of violence against women. But as women’s groups have been repeatedly emphasising over the past weeks, several simple interventions can be made. I would suggest that one such step could be to implement a policy for domestic workers. Even though domestic workers now come under the ambit of the law on sexual harassment at workplace, as long as they continue to work as isolated, atomised individuals without other rights granted to workers in general, they will remain vulnerable to all forms of violence and exploitation.

If we can deal with these dark spaces in our society, where there is little value for the rights of the people who do thankless work, perhaps then we will be better placed to talk about the more visible forms of abuse and assault that have dominated public discussion and debat

#Immediate Release- Indefinite fast in support of demands of farmers-labourer


Lucknow, December 26 : The indefinite fast and demonstration in support of demands of farmers-labourers organized by Socialist Party jointly with National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), Lok Rajniti Manch, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Rihai Manch, Special Teachers and Guardians Association, entered its fourth day today. Two social activists are on an indefinite fast: Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee and Vice President of Socialist Party; and Anil Mishra, social activist.

The gap between the rich and the poor has widened even more, with salary scales of service sector increasing manifold and rising prices over the past years. We believe in the standard recommended by Dr Ram Manohar Lohia that the gap between the income of the rich and the poor should not be more than ten times. Also in a democracy everyone should be getting the same income. We demand that Wage Board should amend the minimum wage of labourers of unorganized sector to Rs 440 so that these labourers don’t receive wage less than the minimum income given by the government. As we know trade union is demanding a minimum income of Rs 11,000 per month for contract workers.

Even the election manifesto of Samajwadi Party had a promise that Farmers’ Commission will be formed to decide the minimum support price for farmers that should be no less than 1.5 times their investment. But the biggest question related to minimum support price is that how will it be implemented? Who will put a clamp on middlemen? The government should demonstrate political will and ban middlemen in matters related to farmers and extortion from the poor people. Be informed that illegal extortion done by three different segments from poor traditional artisans who take part in ‘Kartik Poornima Mela’ in Daliganj was brought to an end last week.

Yesterday former MP Iliyas Azmi said while addressing the indefinite fast and demonstration that Tariq Kazmi and Khalid Muzahid were arrested from Jaunpur and Azamgarh; and Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) is lying by falsely stating that they were arrested from Barabanki. We demand that RD Nimesh Inquiry Report should be made public so that there can be clarity on this matter.

Representatives of Special Teachers and Guardians Association are participating every day in this indefinite fast and demonstration. Their President and social activist, Munnalal Shukla, ended his three days fast yesterday as his health was deteriorating.

This indefinite fast will continue till the time government doesn’t respond regarding the demands raised by this movement. Although we have informed Rajendra Chaudhari, Spokesperson of Samajwadi Party, about our demands and this indefinite fast and demonstration, so far there is no proposition from the government to hold a dialogue.

DEMANDS

1. Unorganized sector should get minimum wage of Rs 11,000 per month or Rs 440 per day. Minimum wages should be linked to Consumer Price Index.

2. It is a matter of grave concern that during the last wheat purchase very few farmers could get the minimum support price of Rs 1285 per Quintal because of dominance of middlemen. The same situation is now occurring in the paddy purchase. We demand a CBI probe in this Wheat-Paddy purchase scam.

3. Under the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009, the clause of 25% reservation for underprivileged children in all schools should be strictly implemented without delay.

4. Illegal extortion and bribes taken for appointments should be stopped.

5. Anti-farmer Maitreya Project in Kushinagar should be cancelled.

6. Innocent Muslim youth who are jailed in the name of terrorism should be released. We demand to make RD Nimesh Investigation Report’ public.

7. Special teachers should be appointed for differently-abled children (handicapped children).

8. Doctors including Dental Surgeons should be appointed in all primary and community health centres.

9. There should be a complete ban on tobacco and alcohol.

Apart from these, effective measures should be taken to curb and control inflation and corruption.

Kindly lend your support to the cause of protecting the rights of farmers, labourers, underprivileged children, by participating in this fast.

 

Supreme Court upholds verdict matching NREGA pay with state wages


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has refused to stay a recent Karnataka High Court verdict that has said the central government is liable to pay higher wages under the country’s flagship rural employment programme in tandem with that of the state minimum wage rate. It has further asked the government to find a way to end the disparity between the wages paid under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Act (MGNREGA) and state mandated rates under the Minimum Wages Act.

The move might mean an additional outgo of around Rs 900 crore in the current financial year from the central government to six states which have a minimum wage rate that is higher than the MGNREGA rate. The Karnataka High Court had in September directed the central government to match the wages under MGNREGA with the state’s minimum wage rates.

The central government had however decided to file a Special Leave Petition to the SC contesting the order. The SC, however, stayedthe order on the payment of arrears prior to the Karnataka high court order providing the central government some relief. The Court stated that non-payment of minimum wages under the scheme is tantamount to forced labour.

It had further strongly urged the Solicitor General to harmonise the MGNREGA wage rates with minimum wages in a manner in which the state Minimum Wages Act is respected. The court also said that the matter should not be treated in an adversarial manner and asked the government to resolve the issue in a consultative manner.

Earlier rural development minister Jairam Ramesh had favoured softening the central government’s stance by complying with the KHC order while suggesting an amendment to create a special wage rate for MGNREGA under the Minimum Wages Act to tackle the issue on a long term basis.

Ramesh, however met opposition from the Finance Ministry and the Law Ministry and on the insistence of PM Manmohan Singh had to file the SLP. The six states with disparate wage rates are Andhra Pradesh , Rajasthan, Kerala, Karnataka , Mizoram and Goa.

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