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This article is written by Isha Tripathi, from NMIMS, School of Law, Bengaluru, and edited by Ilashri Gaur, from Teerthanker Mahaveer University (CLLS).. This is an exhaustive article that discusses the social and financial security provided to interstate migrants in India and the legal remedies given to them by the Government. 


Interstate migration is defined as the movement of the populace beyond the boundaries of the state. The main reason for interstate migration is that people move in search of jobs and work to maintain economic stability. Some of the migrants migrate to settle temporarily only for fulfilling the need for their work, but some do migrate to establish their permanent residence as well. Even though the 105 million vagrant laborers of the 232 million global transients overall contribute completely to the economies of their host and home nations, transient specialists are among the most rejected from even essential inclusion by social security instruments and plans, specifically undocumented vagrant specialists. The host state or country is responsible for providing social security and legal remedies to the migrants to protect them from exploitation. 

Increase in the ratio of interstate migration in India

According to the World Economic Forum’s file on ‘Migration and Cities’, India is domestic to one-fourth of the 100 fastest-growing cities worldwide while Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata are among the 10 most populous urban regions worldwide. Between the years 2001 and 2011, there was an expansion in the development pace of migrants set out toward different goals inside their states when contrasted with those headed outward. The quantity of purported between state vagrants developed at 55% between the 1991 and the 2001 Census. This boiled down to only 33% between the 2001 and 2011 census.

The Hindi belt is the main source of migrants. According to the census, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh accounted for 50% of India’s total inter-state migrants and it is reported that Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are the states which are most responsible for the growth of interstate migrants with the highest number of them. The reason for interstate migration in India is different for the two genders. Women migrate because of their marriage and to reside with their spouses in their state, whereas men mostly migrate in search of jobs to gain economic stability by residing and working in another state. 

Increase of the interstate migrants in India after 1991

There have been a lot of barriers that were put in place to control the interstate migration but despite all of them, the interstate migration has drastically grown up in the last two decades from 11.08 percent as per Census 1991 to 12.06 percent per Census 2011. The reason for this increase is reported as the falling poverty levels which means that the people who are becoming economically stable are migrating more to fix their permanent residence. 

Yet, it is additionally an impression of the enlarging interregional pay and riches holes in India than of an improvement in migration strategy. With a high imbalance among wages, and expanding yearnings, family units are moving longer and further in the scan for elective occupations and ways of life. Most interstate vagrants end up in urban goals, while intrastate movement is ordinarily into other country zones inside the state.

Need for reformation in India’s legal and labour system

Indian labour law is the law set up by the government, which consists of rules and regulations that legally bind service industries and factories. The Indian labour law falls under a concurrent list among the three and, the greater part of them requires consistency from businesses. The Indian Constitution consists of laws that protect the workmen from exploitation.

Indian Labor Law is one of the most disputable laws present today. The industrialist terms it as the one which is debilitating enterprises to set up production lines in India and preferring different nations. Then again,  the liberal term was inadequate to secure the privileges of work. It is on occasion confounding to comprehend the multifaceted nature of the law, and it has a ton of issues that are hard to agree for the businesses, so the need for change is looked for by the ventures.

The reforms that the Indian legal and labour system requires are:

  • Disentanglement of laws and expelling most obsolete ones and make a complete work law. 
  • Permit bosses to conserve workers if they run on misfortunes without driving them to keep the representatives even at the expense of their industry. 
  • Passage existing models for the businesses ought to be disentangled so that at whatever point they face misfortune they can leave the business and it is comparatively easy to take up a new business. 
  • Some game plans explicitly ought to be accomplished for the smaller scale level endeavors. So they can undoubtedly work and grow their business without agonizing a lot of overwork law consistency.

Need for rationalizing Migrant Workmen Act, 1979 to remove requirements that disincentivize formalization

The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979 is an Act of the Parliament of India, sanctioned to control the state of administration of between state workers in Indian work law. The Act’s motivation is to ensure labourers whose administrations are ordered outside their local states in India. At whatever point a business faces a deficiency of aptitudes among the locally accessible specialists, the demonstration makes arrangements to utilize better-talented labourers accessible outside the state.

The aftermath of the lockdown to lessen the spread of COVID-19 features the earnest need to excuse the administrative structure for work in India. Vagrant work has been among the most noticeably awful influences because of the lockdown. Their endeavours to leave the urban areas before the lockdown, and the remarkable endeavours some put in to get back home, recommend that they have low versatility to remain in urban areas without business. 

They become lost despite a general sense of vigilance of India’s standardized savings net, and the administration’s reaction has demonstrated a huge hole between noble expectations reflected in existing laws and their execution. In the quick consequence of the lockdown, state governments were surprised by between state vagrants who were frantic to get back. Many had lost positions, would not have the option to bear the cost of the lease, and feared to fall genuinely sick away from their families. 

The full and legitimate execution of this law would have implied that state governments had total subtleties between state vagrant labourers coming through contractual workers inside their states. While this would at present forget about vagrants who move across states all alone, a huge section would be consequently enrolled because of the prerequisites of the Act. The essential explanation behind this is by all accounts the grave consistency necessities set out in the law. It does not just require equivalent compensation for between state labourers, yet additionally requires other social assurance that would make their business altogether more costly than intra-state workers.

Since the Act is scarcely actualized, it exists as another law that possibly gives lease looking for chances to venture some government investigators while fizzling in its principal objective. Another result of feeble usage is the nonappearance of government readiness and the subsequent disappointment in forestalling veritable difficulties for defenceless gatherings. The results of the lockdown are now ending up being lamentable for vagrant work. One of the exercises from this scene is to not let optimistic necessities become an obstacle to the compelling assurance of the very gatherings these prerequisites are intended for. 

This will require a principled differentiation among formalization and apparent social-government assistance. While the previous tries to make individuals or exercises obvious or “intelligible”, the last goes above and beyond. Social-government assistance insurances are predicated upon formalization, yet resistance with cumbersome social government assistance prerequisites can rather repress formalization. This isn’t just a result of high consistent costs, yet besides because the state can scarcely stay aware of the errand of guaranteeing consistency with such prerequisites, aggravated given the disincentives to consent. This has made a two-level framework, one formal and the other casual. Those in the proper level less than 10 percent of the workforce appreciate impressive securities, while those in the casual level get no assurances. 

Since government assistance plans are likewise predicated on the permeability of those getting the advantages, casual specialists, particularly in urban zones, fall through breaks in the framework. The absence of any government assistance net for casual specialists in urban regions mirrors the results of formalization on paper while ranchers get money moves, and workers in rustic territories have MGNREGA, there are not any plans for casual laborers in urban regions. 

Laws, for example, the Inter-State Migrant Workmen Act, 1979 should in this manner be justified to evacuate necessities that disincentive formalization. We should be even-minded and guarantee that businesses and contractual workers have motivations to approach and register workers without being stressed over correctional activity or unrealistic social security prerequisites.

Labour rights and labour standards

Work rights or labourers’ privileges are both legitimate rights and human rights identifying with work relations among labourers and businesses. These rights are classified in national and universal work and business law. By and large, these rights impact working conditions in the relation to business. One of the most noticeable is the privilege of the opportunity of affiliation, also called the option to sort out. Labourers sorted out in worker’s guilds practice the privilege to aggregate bartering to improve working conditions.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) was framed in 1919 as a feature of the League of Nations to ensure specialist’s privileges. The ILO later got consolidated into the United Nations. The UN itself supported specialists’ rights by consolidating a few into two articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is the premise of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Articles 6–8). These read: 

Article 23

  • Article 23 states that everyone has the privilege to work, to freely decide on a business, to ensure a state of work, and to assure joblessness. 
  • Everyone, with no separation, has the option to rise to pay for equivalent work. 
  • Everyone who works has the option to ensure good compensation guaranteeing for himself and his family a presence deserving of human respect and enhanced, if fundamental, by different methods for social assurance. 
  • Everyone has the privilege to shape and to join a worker’s guilds for the insurance of his/her advantages.

Article 24

  • Everybody has the privilege to rest and recreation, including sensible confinement of working hours and intermittent occasions with pay. 

The ILO and a few different gatherings have looked for universal work norms to make legitimate rights for labourers over the world. Late developments have additionally been made to urge nations to advance work rights at the worldwide level through a reasonable exchange.

Distinguished by the ILO in the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, core work norms are “broadly perceived to be of specific importance”.They are generally pertinent, whether or not the applicable shows have been sanctioned, the degree of advancement of a nation, or social values. These gauges are made out of subjective, not quantitative measures and don’t set up a specific degree of working conditions, wages, or wellbeing and security guidelines. The centre labour standards are:

  • Freedom of association: workers can join worker’s organizations that are free of government and manager impact.
  • The right to aggregate bargaining: workers may haggle with managers all in all, instead of exclusively.
  • The preclusion of all types of constrained labor: includes security from jail work and subjugation, and keeps laborers from being compelled to work under pressure.
  • Elimination of the most noticeably terrible types of kid labor: implementing a base working age and certain working condition prerequisites for kids.
  • Non-segregation in business: equivalent compensation for equivalent work.

The status of migrant labour in India- ILO

The National Commission on Rural Labor in India (NCRL, 1991) gauges more than 10 million round transients in the rustic zones alone. These incorporate an expected 4.5 million interstate transients and 6 million intra-state vagrants. The Commission called attention to that there is an enormous number of occasionally transient specialists in the agribusiness and ranches, block ovens, quarries, building destinations, and fish preparing. The issue of occasional transient specialists in the sugar industry and other agro-based ventures is not another marvel in India. There are more than 500 sugar production lines in India. The normal smashing period of the sugar processing plants shifts from 116 to 165 days. In the nation, agricultural specialists move from dry season inclined territories of Maharashtra state to flooded zones or mechanically created zones of the state for occasional work in the sugar processing plants. 

There are around 12 lakh sugar stick cutters, transporters, sugarcane collecting occasional transient specialists in the state of Maharashtra. Most of the part-time employees or less fortunate live in the provincial regions and have a place with the classifications of landless labourers, small and minor ranchers, booked positions, and planned clans and others in reverse classes. These individuals have either no benefits with very profitability, a couple of pertinent abilities, and no standard time or exceptionally low paid occupations seasonal. Besides, migrant labourers are occupied with various sorts of occupations, for example, block furnaces, salt dishes, stone quarries, development (irrigation, canals, dams, road working) in agri-professional reaping of sugarcane. Huge quantities of fortified workers these days are occasional vagrants (Breman, 2008).

Information of vagrant laborers in various divisions of India

Reports state shrewd information of vagrant labourers in various divisions of India. Haryana state gives work to countless vagrant labourers from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. A few labourers relocate to tea, and espresso estates in Karnataka states, West Bengal and Assam states utilize vagrant workers from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Bihar. Besides, more than 12 lakh between state transient specialists work in the agrarian division. Block furnaces give work to around 10 lakh labourers and occasional transient specialists. Different construction labourers, street, railroad, structures, dams. Channels and so forth appear to utilize almost 20 lakh between state vagrants. 

Around 45 lakh between state transient specialists work for brief periods in various sectors. Besides, huge quantities of occasional transients work in the urban casual assembling, development administrations, or transport segments as easy-going workers, etc. In Maharashtra, there are 10 lakh handloom and force loom labourers, 8 lakh labourers who are occupied with building and development areas. In the state of Maharashtra, sugar processing plants draw in close around six lakh occasional vagrant specialists from dry season inclined territories of the state. Horticulturally created districts in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh draw workers from different regions either from inside the state or different states. So far as the enrollment process is worried, in the rural part, transient specialists are enlisted straightforwardly by the ranchers themselves or through a chain of mediators like contractual workers or mukkadams or thekedar, etc. The enlistment process in the non-farming segment is additionally sorted out through temporary workers or mediators in various ventures. 

Social security and the fundamental rights of labour

As per the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy of the Indian Constitution, it is the duty of the State to concede the residents, the two people, right to satisfactory methods for business, equivalent compensation for equivalent work, assurance against misuse and abuse of labourers, monetary need, insurance of their wellbeing and quality, states of opportunity and respect and ensure youngsters and an adolescent against abuse and good and material deserting. 

The International Labor Organization (ILO) accommodates a tripartite course of action between managers, labourers, and states to administer and execute the worldwide work guidelines in the part nations. The worldwide work gauges set down insurance for labourers in a few segments which are comprehensive of the opportunity of affiliation, equivalent compensation for equivalent work, safe working conditions, cancellation of constrained work and sex-based segregation, business assurance, the arrangement of government managed savings, the security of transient specialists, disposal of inappropriate behaviour of ladies labourers and others.

Beating the challenges looked by vagrant specialists and their families as for government managed savings inclusion is integral to the ILO command of shutting inclusion holes as the most elevated need for fair development, social attachment, and not too bad work for all as installed in the Declaration of Philadelphia (1944) and reaffirmed in Social Protection Floors Recommendation, 2012 (No. 202). ILO shows and proposals perceive and address the particular impediments looked by transient specialists in getting to government managed savings; in guaranteeing equity of treatment as well as in broadening inclusion. Thus, these archives call for expanded standardized savings coordination between nations through reciprocal and multilateral understandings and guaranteeing the movability of government managed savings rights.

Legal remedies for interstate migrants

Naturally, worldwide and between state movements are unavoidable elements of the Union. The augmentation of the “incredible lockdown” as a reaction to the COVID emergency has involved monetary interruption, along these lines increasing the compassionate emergency of between state transient labourers. In the open approach system of “life versus vocation”, the focal and express governments’ reaction to the issue of vagrants’ predicament has terrified many. The FM declared that their predicament “pulls at her heartstrings”, and later reported that eight crore vagrants will be qualified with the expectation of complimentary rice/wheat and heartbeats, costing the exchequer Rs 3,500 crore.

The UN sets up that the state must arrange food or the way to purchase food to its populace wherein the base commitment is an opportunity from hunger. It characterizes the privilege as far as the state’s obligation to regard, ensure, and satisfy (encourage and give) the person’s entitlement to food. NFSA (2013) ensures exceptionally financed month to month proportions of rice, wheat or millets to 75% of provincial and half of the urban populace around 800 million individuals partitioned as Priority (BPL) and Antyodaya family units. It likewise orders the making of complaint review frameworks for the requirement at national, state, and area levels.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), in a mediation application Friday, caused the Supreme Court to notice a 41-year-old law that could have been utilized to defend the interests of transient laborers, had it been actualized viably. The commission looked for “appropriate and successful usage” of the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, which was encircled to forestall misuse of between state vagrant specialists, ensure their privileges and make a database of transient workers. It additionally summoned the law to give venture recompense to vagrant specialists and educated the consideration regarding another condition in the law to give crisis measures in circumstances, for example, the Covid-19 pandemic. The focal government had postponed another bill in Parliament the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2019 (OSHWCC)  to supplant the current law.

As indicated by the law, contractual workers and foundations that utilize transient labourers need to get a permit from the state where the worker has his/her residence (home state), just as the state in which they are proposed to be utilized. The permit may contain conditions regarding courses of action under which the between state vagrants will be selected, the compensation payable, long periods of work, the obsession of wages, and other basic civilities to be given. Before employing the labourers, the foundations are required to get a testament to enrollment. During 15 days of employment, the temporary worker is required to give total subtleties of transient specialists to the enlisting authority. It is the officeholder upon the temporary worker to keep up information on every vagrant specialist and give them a passbook containing subtleties of their business.

A portion of different measures under the law incorporates an arrangement of a reviewer to visit the foundations where labourers are utilized, an express arrangement concerning the due date by which wages are to be paid, a vagrant’s qualification to a dislodging remittance, appropriate private settlement, satisfactory clinical offices, and defensive dress. The new OSHWCC holds a few arrangements of the law, including contractual workers getting licenses, removal, and excursion recompenses for labourers. Nonetheless, corrective arrangements have been avoided. The parliamentary board had prompted that each state ought to likewise have a helpline number for the labourers.

The Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008

The Unorganized Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008, was authorized on 30th December 2008 with a means to guarantee standardized savings and government assistance of sloppy specialists and to execute the national Security Social Scheme. The Act explicitly expects to take into account the necessities of the laborers of chaotic areas and commands the Central Government to detail plans for the sloppy laborers on issues identifying with: 

  • Life and inability spread; 
  • Wellbeing and maternity benefits; 
  • Mature age assurance; and 
  • Some other advantages might be controlled by the Central Government.

The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970

Receiving freedom, India attempted to develop its independent economy. The worldwide industrialization had its impact on India too and thus there was an interest in labourers in horticultural fields as well as in enormous mechanical plants, mines, and so on. Along these lines, a huge lump of labourers relocated from less created States (UP, Bihar) to mechanical States (Gujarat, West Bengal, Orissa) and urban communities. There was an ensuing need for control over the working conditions of such transient workers, hence this Central labour enactment was instituted.

Labour laws and migrant workers during COVID-19

On 24th March 2020, the Prime Minister declared a nation-wide lockdown in India. Such a severe move was made as a preparatory activity to forestall the enormous scope COVID-19 episode. What followed was the departure of transient specialists across the States. These vagrant specialists had a place with both the composed and sloppy division. A large part of the vagrant labourers is the ones who worked at building areas, truck pullers, family unit workers, etc. They were subject to a day by day wellspring of pay for their everyday endurance. 

A writ appeal was documented by Harsh Mander, an Indian author, columnist, researcher, teacher, and social activist working with survivors of mass violence and hunger, as well as homeless persons and street children, under the watchful eye of the Supreme Court mentioning it to give a course to the Central/State Governments to guarantee insignificant wages for all the vagrant specialists. In the meantime, the Union Home Ministry guided the businesses to pay wages to their labourers in their work environment without a conclusion during the time of lockdown. The request additionally forgoes landowners gathering rent from the transient labourers living in the rental settlement.

The Supreme Court vide request guided the Center to guarantee the availability of fundamental necessities and clinical offices for transient specialists taking into account the nationwide lockdown. Migrant labourers have a place with both the sloppy and composed segments. A large share of them works in the development segment. An expression of alert to the perusers that the other work enactments additionally apply to the composed area transient labourers which are not managed here, for example, the Minimum Wages Act.


The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, 1990, was presented with a target of government assistance of vagrant workers all over the world. Aside from International command, according to the Directive Principles of State Policy likewise, the State is required to make sure about the residents, and there is a satisfactory method for deciding on occupations, equivalent compensation for equivalent work for the two people, insurance against misuse and abuse of laborers, financial need, assurance of their wellbeing and quality. 


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