No details on migrant labourers, despite circular asking for it, shows RTI

Topics Coronavirus | Labourer | RTI Act

Police baton charge one of the migrant workers during a clash following their agitation seeking arrangements for them to return home, amid ongoing Covid-19 lockdown, in Surat. Photo: PTI
The migrant labour crisis amid the ongoing nationwide lockdown in force to prevent the spread of coronavirus prompted the Chief Labour Commissioner (CLC) last month to issue a circular calling for urgent collection of data on every stranded worker across the country. However, the CLC does still not have the data, show replies to Right to Information (RTI) queries.

On April 8, the office of the CLC issued a circular to the regional heads of 20 centres across the country to collect data on stranded migrant workers in every district and state. Templates were issued for data capture during the enumeration process. Both blue-and white-collared workers were to be enumerated in this manner. The regional heads were given three days to collect information and send it to the CLC.

CLC circular ordering information of migrant labour to be collected from across the country

The response to an RTI, filed by activist Venkatesh Nayak on April 21, reads: “As per the stat section is concerned, no such details are available based on requisite information.” The response was received on May 5.

It should be noted that the response of the Center Public Information Officer (CPIO) was not in the usual format of a signed scanned copy. Instead, it was in the form of an unsigned one-liner.

“There was no indication whether my RTI application would be transferred to any other section or public authority, or if any effort would be made to collate the information from the enumeration exercise and make it publicly available,” says Nayak. “CLC CPIO's cryptic one-liner reply raises serious doubts about availability of data about migrant workers, despite an enumeration exercise being launched,” he adds.

One-line response from CPIO of CLC, stating no details on migrant labour is available

The RTI Act states that ‘if the information sought is not available with one's public authority, it must be transferred to another public authority which may have custody of such information’. However, no such action was undertaken in this case, either.

The circular issued by the CLC notes the urgency of the migrant labour crisis. It says: “(A) number of migrant workers are stranded and placed in various temporary shelters/relief camps arranged by state government authorities, employers at work place itself and also there are some localities where migrant workers are generally clustered.”

Given this urgency, the CLC had called for comprehensive data collection across these sectors — building and construction, hotels, food service and catering, mining and quarrying, transportation and storage, IT and communication, wholesale and retail, manufacturing, agriculture and allied activities, water supply and waste management, delivery workers for e-commerce, household and domestic work and other service activities.

The details were to be collected in three different categories:

1. Relief camps/shelters (district-wise)

2. Employers whose staffers are in-situ at workplace

3. Local where migrant workers are generally clustered (other than 1 and 2).

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