The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979
This Act aims to regulate the employment of ‘inter-state migrant workmen’ and provide for their conditions of service.
An ‘inter-state migrant workman’ is defined as any person who is recruited by or through a contractor in one state for employment in an establishment in another state, with or without the knowledge of the principal employer (any person responsible for supervision and control) in such an establishment.
The Act extends to the whole of India.
Who does is this Act apply to?
The Act applies to every establishment in which five or more inter-state migrant workers are employed or have been employed in the preceding 12 months. It is also applicable to any contractor who employs, or has employed, five or more inter-state migrant workers on any day of the preceding 12 months.
What does the Act mandate for establishments employing inter-state migrant workers?
It directs principal employers of establishments to be registered under this Act, if they are employing more than five inter-state migrant workmen. For this, they shall make an application to the registering officer appointed by the appropriate government. No principal employer of any establishment can employ inter-state migrant workers unless they have a certificate of registration issued under this Act. The registration may be revoked if the registering officer is satisfied that the holder has contravened the provisions of the Act.
Here, ‘appropriate Government’ refers to:
“(1) any establishment pertaining to any industry carried on by or under the authority of the Central Government or pertaining to any such controlled industry as may be specified in this behalf by the Central Government; or
(2) any establishment of any railway, Cantonment Board, major port, mine or oil-field; or
(3) any establishment of a banking or insurance company”
What does the Act state about licenses for contractors employing inter-state migrant workers?
No contractor shall recruit any person in a state for the purpose of employing them in any establishment in another state, unless they have a license for the same under this Act. The license may include the terms and conditions of the agreement or other arrangement under which the workers will be recruited, the remuneration payable, hours of work, the wages fixed, and other amenities for the inter-state migrant workers – as the appropriate government may deem fit. The license may be revoked if the licencing officer is satisfied that the holder has contravened the provisions of the Act.
The principal employer shall authorise a representative to be present at the time of disbursement of wages by the contractor. In case the contractor fails to make the payment or pays a reduced wage, the principal employer is liable to pay the balance or unpaid amount by deducting the amount from the contractor’s payment, or as debt payable by the contractor.
What are the facilities to be provided by the contractor to inter-state migrant workers under this Act?
The Act states that that the wage rates, holidays, work hours and other conditions of service for an inter-state migrant worker shall be the same as those applicable to other workers performing the same kind of work in the establishment; or as prescribed by the appropriate government. The inter-state migrant worker shall be paid no less than the wages fixed by the Minimum Wages Act, 1948. They shall be paid their wages in cash.
The contractor must pay the migrant worker a one-time ‘displacement allowance’ of 50 per cent of the monthly wages paid to them, or Rs. 75, whichever is higher, at the time of recruitment. This amount shall be paid in addition to the wages payable to the worker, and it shall not be refundable.
The contractor shall pay the inter-state migrant worker a ‘journey allowance’ of a sum not less than the fare from their place of residence to their place of work – for both, the outward and return journeys. The worker shall be entitled to payment of wages during the period of such journeys as if they were on duty.
The Act stipulates that it is the contractor’s duty to ensure the regular and equal payment of wages to inter-state migrant workers, equal pay for equal work irrespective of gender, suitable conditions of work, residential accommodation for the period of their employment, free medical facilities and protective clothing. They shall also report any fatal accident of, or bodily injury to, any worker to the specified authorities of both states and the worker’s family.
How is this Act monitored?
The ‘appropriate Government’ may appoint inspecting officers under this Act and define the limits within which their powers shall be exercised. The inspector may enter any premises where they have reason to believe any inter-state migrant workers are employed, and examine any register or record required to be kept by the provisions of this Act. The inspector may examine workers to determine whether they are inter-state migrants.
What are the penalties for contravening the Act’s provisions?
Whoever obstructs the inspector in the discharge of their duties under this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment for up to two years, or a fine that may extend to Rs. 2,000, or both.
Whoever contravenes any rules or regulations under this Act shall be punishable with imprisonment up to one year, or a fine of up to Rs. 1,000, or both.
In case of a continuing contravention, an additional fine of up to Rs. 100 shall be levied for every day that the contravention continues after the conviction of the first such contravention.
If an offence has been committed by a company, the company and the persons in charge when the offence was committed shall be liable to prosecution in court.
When shall an establishment be exempt from this Act?
The appropriate government may direct that any or all of the Act’s provisions or the rules made under it shall not apply to one or more establishments – if the government is satisfied that it is ‘just and proper’ to do so, for a period specified by that government.
Focus and Factoids by Ipshita Karmkar.
Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of India
Government of India, New Delhi
11 Jun, 1979