THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: After the much successful Aawaz health insurance scheme, the migrant workers in the state look set to benefit from another landmark initiative. Informal discussions and deliberations on ensuring them ‘Portable Rights’ are already under way.
The unique movement aims to ensure the basic rights workers enjoy in their respective home state, even as they labour in other states. It includes even political rights where migrants can cast votes in states where they are currently living. A nation-wide campaign in this regard is being spearheaded by social activist Harsh Mander, Indrajit Roy of York University, Priyanka Jain of Aajeevika Rajasthan and State Planning Board member Ravi Raman.
“The idea is to protect the guest workers’ human rights by ensuring certain basic rights — public provision rights, trade union rights and finally political rights. Once the migrant labourers get access to public provision rights, they can buy foodgrain from civil supplies, thereby reducing their dependency on open markets. There is also an attempt to minimise the interference by merchants of labour in an effort to protect the workers’ wages,” said Ravi Raman.
Kerala could be one of the first states to consider introducing Portable Rights, going by the success of various highly effective schemes for migrant labourers.
The Awas healthcare scheme through which about 1.89 lakh biometric cards have been distributed to workers until recently, has been one of the Labour Department’s major initiatives. The actual number of labourers enrolled must have gone up further by now.
Ensuring workers’ rights will cut out middlemen
AS per rough estimates, there are more than 25 lakh migrant labourers working in Kerala. Ensuring their rights will further help their integration to the social mainstream. Also it could reduce their dependency on middlemen.
As part of the nation-wide movement, the four-member team is likely to approach the Centre seeking to implement ‘Portable Rights’ across the country. “Going by the way the state government has been supporting the migrant labourers with various schemes and initiatives, Kerala could think about taking up ‘Portable Rights’ for them. Ensuring their access to basic rights like public provisions should be the first step,” said Ravi Raman.