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LEGAL RIGHTS & RELIEFS AVAILABLE TO MIGRANT WORKERS DURING THE PANDEMIC – COVID 19

April 03, 2020

 There has been a mass exodus of the migrant workers on account of the nationwide lockdown
in India due to the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic. The lockdown has disproportionately
hurt the marginalized communities due to loss of livelihood and lack of food, shelter,
healthcare and other basic needs.
An Inter State Migrant Workman (herein after ‘Migrant Worker’) is defined under S. 2(e)
of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service)
Act, 19791 to mean “any person who is recruited by or through a contractor in one State
under an agreement or other arrangement for employment in an establishment in another
State, whether with or without the knowledge of the principal employer in relation to such
establishment” and an Establishment is defined under S. 2(d) to mean “(i) any office or
department of the Government or a local authority; or (ii) any place where any industry,
trade, business, manufacture or occupation is carried on”.

Following are the various Statutes which recognise the Rights of Migrant Workers in
India:

1. The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of
Service) Act, 1979

a. Migrant Worker is entitled to a displacement allowance during his/her
recruitment, equal to 50% of their monthly wages or Rs. 75, whichever is higher,
and the said allowance shall be non-refundable.
b. Migrant Worker is entitled to a journey allowance by their contractor/employer
and is also entitled to payment of wages during the period of journey as if he/she
were on duty.
2. The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of
Service) Central Rules, 1980

a. Migrant Worker is entitled to a return fare on termination of his employment
and/or cessation of work in the establishment which is not due to the fault on part
of the Migrant Worker.
b. The contractor shall ensure provision of adequate medical facilities for outdoor
treatment to the Migrant Worker free of cost from any ailment suffered during
employment in the establishment or to meet any preventive measure against
epidemic or any virus infection.
1 The Act is applicable to all establishments wherein 5 or more inter-State Migrant Workers are employed.
2 Notification dated 23.09.2019 of the Ministry of Labour & Employment; https://clc.gov.in/clc/node/614.

3. The Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008
a. A Migrant Worker can be covered under the definition of ‘unorganized worker’
under this Act, which is defined under S. 2(m) to mean “a home-based worker,
self-employed worker or a wage worker3 in the unorganized sector and includes a
worker in the organized sector who is not covered by any of the Acts mentioned in
Schedule II4 to this Act”.
b. The Act also provide for the Central Government to formulate welfare schemes
relating to life and disability, health and maternity benefits, old age protection,
etc. and the State Government to formulate welfare schemes relating to provident
fund, employment injury benefit, housing, educational schemes for children, skill
upgradation of workers, funeral assistance and old age homes.

4. The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897

The State Governments may take any measure to prevent outbreak of an epidemic and
compensate.

5. The National Disaster Management Act, 2005

The affected persons are entitled to minimum requirements to be provided in relief
camps in relation to shelter, food, drinking water, medical cover and sanitation; ex
gratia assistance on account of loss of life as also assistance for restoration of means of
livelihood.
6. Constitution of India

The Constitution of India provides for protection of life and personal liberty and
accordingly provisions has to be made by the Central and the State Governments to
ensure that necessary relief is provided to safeguard the rights of the Migrant Workers.
Case Laws:

a. Tehseen S. Poonawalla v. Union of India, (2018) 9 SCC 501

In times of chaos and anarchy, the State has to act positively and responsibly to
safeguard and secure the constitutional promises to its citizens. … The State
cannot turn a deaf ear to the growing rumblings of its People, since its concern,
to quote Woodrow Wilson, “must ring with the voices of the people.”

b. Vikram Singh Deo Tomar v. State of Bihar, AIR 1988 SC 1782

3 Wage Worker is defined under S. 2(n) to mean “a person for employed for remuneration in the unorganized
sector, directly by an employer or through any contractor, irrespective of place of work, whether exclusively for
one employer or for one or more employers, whether in cash or in kind, whether a home-based worker, or as a
temporary or casual worker, or as a migrant worker, or workers employed by households including domestic
workers, with monthly wage of an amount as may be notified by the Central Government and State Government,
as the case may be”.
4 Schedule II covers the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923; the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947; the Employees’
State Insurance Act, 1948; the Employees’ Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952; the
Maternity Benefit Act, 1961 and the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972.

The State has to provide atleast the minimum conditions ensuring human dignity
in discharge of its responsibilities to people.

c. Francis Coralie v. Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi, AIR 1981 SC 746

Right to life cannot be restricted to mere animal existence. It includes the right to
live with human dignity and all that goes along with it, namely, bare necessities
such as adequate nutrition, clothing and shelter.

d. Workers of C.E.S.C. Limited v. Subhash Chandra Bose, (1992) 1 SCC 411

Placing reliance on Articles 22 to 25 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
and Articles 21 and 39(e) of the Constitution of India, the Supreme Court held
that health care implies more than just absence of sickness and therefore, medical
facilities are a part of social security and thus, right to health is a fundamental
right to workmen.
7. As per the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the
State is liable to take all measures to prevent, treat and control epidemic, endemic,
occupational and other diseases and provide sufficient health care.

The following reliefs have been announced by the Central Government to ease the
economic impact of the Lockdown amid the Covid-19 outbreak on the poor Migrant
Workers:

• The Ministry of Home Affairs5 directed all State Governments to ensure temporary
shelters, food, and other basic amenities like clean drinking water, sanitation, etc. are
made available to all the stranded labourers and poor families, including the Migrant
Workers.
• State Governments to ensure that the stranded workers are quarantined for 14 days in
the nearest available facilities and adequate health care and medical facilities are
provided.
• Employers to make payment of wages of their workers on the due date without any
deduction for the lock down period.
• Landlords shall not demand payment of rent for a period of 1 month from the workers,
including migrants. Landlords forcing workers to vacate the premises shall be liable
under the National Disaster Management Act.
• Centre issued a notification changing the rules under the State Disaster Relief Fund
making availability of funds for food, temporary accommodation, clothing and medical
care of the Migrant Workers during the lock down period.

• Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna: Food related benefits free of cost to poor
families for the next three months including additional 5 kgs of either rice or wheat per

mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/MHA%20Order%20restricting%20movement%20of%20migrants%20and%20strict%20enforement%20of%20lockdown%20measures%20-%2029.03.2020.pdf
month and 1 kg pulses per household. Also, Rs. 1,70,000 Crore allocated for poor,
Migrant Workers, women and disadvantaged.
• Members under the Ujjwala Scheme will be given Gas cylinder per household.
• Monetary benefits
a) Government of India to pay full 24 % contribution, which covers both employer’s
and employee’s share of Provident Fund and Pension contribution (12% each), for
the next three months in case of organisations having upto 100 employees out of
which 90% are earning less than Rs. 15,000/- per month.
b) Provident fund scheme regulations will be amended to allow non-refundable
advance of 75% of the amount in the account to the credit of the member or wages
for three months, whichever is less.
c) MNREGA wages is increased from Rs. 182 to Rs. 202 per worker from
01.04.2020.
d) First Instalment of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi i.e. Rs. 2,000 will be
released immediately.
e) Ex-gratia amount of Rs. 1,000 to be paid to the poor widows, pensioners and
disabled persons in two instalments over the next three months.
f) Woman Jan-Dhan account holders will be given an amount of Rs. 500 per month
for the next three months.
g) State Governments are requested to use District Mineral Fund for medical testing
activities, screening activities and other necessary activities in order to fight the
virus.
• Advisory under S. 60 of the Buildings and other Construction Workers Act issued to all
State Governments thereby directing them to transfer funds in the accounts of such
workers (however, funds are transferred to only workers registered with the BOCW
Welfare Board) through DBT (Direct Benefit Transfer) mode from the Cess fund
collected by Labour Welfare Boards under the BOCW Cess Act.

                                                         Disclaimer

This update is intended for your general information only. The information and opinions
contained in this document are derived from public sources which we believe to be reliable and
accurate but which, without further investigation, cannot be warranted as to their accuracy,
completeness or correctness. It is not intended to be nor should be regarded as legal advice and no one
should act on such information without appropriate professional advice. Athena Legal accepts no
responsibility for any loss arising from any action taken or not taken by anyone using this material

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