This article is written by Neha Sharma, a student of DSNLU, Vizag.
Labour in India basically refers to the people who are employed in organized or unorganized sector and contributing to the economy of India. Organized sector includes workers who are employed by the government, state-owned enterprises and private sector enterprises. Unorganized sector, which is also named as informal sector or known as own account enterprises, refers to all unlicensed, self-employed or unregistered economic activity such as handicrafts and handloom workers, rural traders, farmers, etc. The term ‘unorganized labor’ is defined as workers who have been unable to organize themselves in the pursuit of common interests. Due to the illiteracy, poverty, ignorance, and small and scattered size of work establishment these workers are exploited by the employers. These types of workers who are highly distressed become bonded labors, migrant labors and contract labors.
Mines means any excavation where any operation for the purpose of searching for or obtaining minerals has been or is being carried on which includes all borings, oil wells, all protective works being carried out in or adjacent to a mine etc. and when it comes to define a person who is employed in mines then according to section 2(h) of The Mines Act 1952 a person is said to be “employed” in a mine who works as the manager or who works under appointment by the owner, agent or manager of the mine or with knowledge of the manager, whether for wages or not.
Major quarries of India are spread over the states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. Almost everywhere in these states migrant and bonded labors are employed to carry out the works because they are a very deprived class of people and easily they get ready to work for low wages. The people of the mining villages receive extremely low wages with no benefits. An adult male worker working in mines receives only Rs.70-120 per day, depending upon his skill, after 8-10 hours of work. Comparatively, the daily wage for a woman is Rs. 45-55, and a child receives Rs. 30-40 a day. These workers don’t get any holidays, no weekly days off for these people, and no maternity leave.
Unsafe working conditions in the mines lead to high number of accidents and health care has been always a serious issue among the mineworkers. Lack of safety equipments, hard physical labour and presence of health hazards in mines lead to widespread health problems. The mine worker people are poor so they can’t afford expensive medical treatment and their isolated location and poverty deny them access to health care and the diseases often prove fatal.
Funding will provide health and preventive care in these type of isolated areas where the access to health care is not that easy. Patients should be provided with diagnosis and treatment, including low-cost medication.
Working Group in Mining
Women are paid less than men. This is not even half of the official minimum wage for unskilled labor, which is 100 rupees. In quarries they have to do separate task from men like handpicking, loading and crushing the stones. It takes many skills but then also they are regarded as unskilled labors because there is no formal upgrading of skills and there is no recognition of these tasks. Not only they get less wage then men but they are also sexually harassed by mine owners and contractors. Many interview report shows that Dalit and tribal women are the most exploited sects of people in the mining sector.
Child labor in Mining
Children who are born in remote mining areas starts with a big disadvantage as they could not get any child care facilities there, and often no schools exist in the neighborhood, mothers are only left with the choice to take them along to their work in the quarries. In their childhood only when they should learn how to write and speak, they learn to crush the stones or help with loading the stones on trucks. It’s not that no Government schools exist in these types of area, schools exist but because of the very poor quality and teacher absenteeism, these government schools can’t provide proper education to these children and they remain illiterate. These children also don’t get proper food to eat due to which majority of children are chronically malnourished.
Cheap child labour is welcomed by the contractors and due to the poverty and hardship child workers family allow their children to work in mines and quarries and it’s no surprise that majority of these children are working in mines. These children also don’t get proper food to eat due to which majority of children are chronically malnourished.
Reports show that many children are working in the mining sector, because of the remoteness of quarries and mines and the informal character of the sector but the response from the Indian labour department is complete denial. They argue that child labour in mining and quarrying is illegal and it’s the violation of their right to education. They are often displaced migrants, living in huts and tents and as a result they are very vulnerable for other forms of exploitation and abuses, and they often involved in illegal activities by the mafia and trafficking.
Dalits and Adivasi
Large scale mining projects are basically operated in tribal or adivasi areas. What the government, politicians and big businessman or industrialist do is to take away the land from their owners and force them to migrate. In case of displacement owners of the land are compensated with the cash amount or sometimes they are also offered jobs but in case of Dalits they hardly receives any compensation as they do not work on their own land themselves but work as landless laborers on other people’s land. Discrimination on the basis of caste with Dalits in workplace is very common and they get excluded from social services such as health care and training. Also they never get the chance to be promoted as they are viewed as unskilled labours.
Laws that protects the rights of mine laborers
A committee was appointed by the government of India 1895 to frame suitable rules and regulations for the protection of workers working in mines in such cases where they have reasonable claim on state for protection. The committee submitted its report in 1896. This report led to the enactment of first Mine Act in India which came into effect from 22th March 1901.
Some of the provisions of the act is minimum age of employment is 12 years, Penalties were prescribed for various contraventions, Inspector was allowed to enter into the mines and he can inspect and make enquiries.
This was enacted in 1910 and 1914. Then a new Indian Mines Act was enacted in 1923. The act was further amended in 1925, 1927, 1928, 1931, 1935, 1937, 1940 and 1946.
The amended act of 1935 made a new changes in the age of employment. The age of children was raised to 15 years. Mining Boards were required to be set up by the provincial governments.
The amended act of 1940 stipulated that salaries and wages of manager, supervisory staff should be paid by the owner of mine and not by the raising contractor.
Mines Act 1952
The Mines Act, 1952 contains the provision related to health, safety and welfare of the workers working in coal, oil and metalliferous mines. The act define mine as “any excavation where any operation for the purpose of searching for or obtaining minerals has been or is being carried on and includes all borings, bore holes, oil wells and accessory crude conditioning plants, shafts, opencast workings, conveyors or aerial ropeways, planes, machinery works, railways, tramways, sliding, workshops, power stations, etc. or any premises connected with mining operations and near or in the mining area”.
According to the provision of the Act it is the duty of the owner to manage mines and the mining operations and health and safety in the mines. The act also prescribes number of working hour in the mines, what should be the minimum wage rate and other related matters.
This Act is administered by the Ministry of Labour and Employment through the Directorate General of Mines Safety. It’s the Government regulatory agency for safety in mines and oil fields. The main work of DGMS is to reduce the risk of occupational diseases and injury to persons employed in mines and to improve safety and health standards. For this they do periodic inspections of mines to keep vigil over the status of safety and investigate into accidents and complaints.
The Mine act 1952 was amended in 1959 and 1983. Vocation training rules 1966 were framed under the Mines Act 1952. In this the rule provided that refresher should get specialized training.
The constitution of India has empowered the parliament to frame laws for the safeguard for the person working in the mines and also for the regulation of labor and safety in mines.
Article 246 of Indian Constitution: Article 246 and entry 55 of the seventh schedule of Indian constitution talks about the regulation of labour and safety in mines and oilfields.
Article 24: Article 24 of Indian constitution says that no child below the age of fourteen years be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment.
Article 39: Article 39(e) speaks that the state shall directs its policy towards securing the health and strength of workers, men and women , and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter vocations unsuited to their age or strength.
Article 42: Article 42 of Indian Constitution says that the state shall make provisions for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.
In the mining industry safety is vital factor. To avoid any types of unwanted accidents all mining industry follows some basic precaution. To avoid loss of material and damaging of human health, protection system as well as communication system is necessary inside the underground mines. To increase both safety and productivity in mines, a reliable communication must be established between workers. The workers including women, children dalits and adivasis came from a very backward society and they are the most suppressed section of the society. Just because they are poor and illiterate and come from a weaker section of the society, they should not be deprived from their fundamental and basic rights. They should also get equal opportunity to be promoted, they should get the wages prescribed by law. They also have the right to get holidays, maternity leave and safety measures. The laws should be implemented more effectively to uplift these people. Since they are illiterate, they can’t read and write so they are unaware of their rights and the owners and the contractors take this benefit and the workers continue to be the victim of humiliation and harassment. A proper camp should be organized from time to time for the mine worker where they should be informed about the rights which they have and what are the rules and regulations which are made to protect them so that in case of harassment they can also raise their voice. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution talks about right to equality, then this article should not be limited to a specified or we can say only to the people of high status. It should be enjoyed by each and every individual of the nation whether he or she comes from poor family or rich family , whether he is literate or illiterate. There should not be any discrimination between two individual on any ground.
The laws are made by the legislatures should not remain in the paper only, it has to come into effect practically .