New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government is proposing to do away with the Interstate Migrant Workmen Act, even though it is the Centre's responsibility to ensure workers' rights are taken care of under the legislation especially during the lockdown, the Congress said on Saturday.
The party said Parliament should assert itself and not allow this to happen, as it called upon the Centre and the states to jointly formulate an action plan to ensure safe return of migrants to their homes.
"The Modi government has proposed to do away with the Inter-State Migrant Act, 1979. Parliament should assert itself forcefully to ensure this does not happen. If anything, the Act needs to be updated and strengthened. The inexcusable loss of lives and livelihoods needs to stop now," senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said.
Asserting that inter-state migration is the "exclusive jurisdiction" of the Centre, Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill said, "The BJP government should do its duty rather than shirking responsibility, passing the buck and extorting money from labourers." The legislation is intended to regulate the employment of inter-state migrant workmen and to provide for their conditions of service. It was enacted to prevent the exploitation of inter-state migrant workmen by contractors, and to ensure fair and decent conditions of employment.
Shergill said a 'One Nation, One Policy' should be adopted for reverse migration of workers rather than 28 states having different laws of acceptance for the labourers.
"Instead of playing politics on the issue of migrants, the Centre and the states should together prepare an action plan without any discrimination, to ensure safe return of migrants," he said.
The Congress leader said the manner in which Indians stranded abroad are being welcomed at airports, migrant labourers should also be welcomed by different states.
The central government must announce compensation for families of the 55 labourers who died due to its "ill-planning, insensitive approach and irrational decision-making", Shergill said.
The Congress spokesperson said Home Minister Amit Shah broke his silence on the issue of migrants after over 45 days of lockdown and death of over 55 labourers, by writing to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
"He should write similar letters to Gujarat and Karnataka (where BJP governments are in place) who are stopping labourers from returning to their native states during nationwide lockdown. The West Bengal government must help migrants reach their homes," he said.
Shah in his letter to CM Mamata Banerjee said the West Bengal government was not allowing trains with migrant workers to reach the state and that may further create hardship for the labourers.
TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee hit back at Shah saying he should either apologise or prove his allegations.
Accusing the home minister was spreading a "bundle of lies" after staying silent for weeks, Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of the West chief minister said Shah was talking about the very people who have been left to their fate by the Centre.