‘honorarium’ has been introduced to negate the very issue of employment and wages, and honorarium-based employees are rightly demanding recognition as employees and implementation of the principle of equal pay for equal work.

Migrant Workers

37. Migrant Workers work long hours for low wages in insecure and dangerous working conditions. The Interstate Migrant Workers Act is a law which is observed only in its breach. Away from home and community, they are victims of all sorts of humiliation and harassment, including chauvinistic prejudices and communal campaigns, as seen repeatedly and most glaringly in the vicious anti-migrant assaults unleashed competitively by the Shiv Sena and its offshoot MNS. The sinister SMS-instigated rush to return home (in the wake of the Kokrajhar violence in Assam) among panic- stricken workers from Assam and other North-eastern states working in cities like Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Chennai underscored the vulnerability and insecurity that define the daily existence of millions of migrant workers in India. We must fight for a law to deal with atrocities on migrant workers on the lines of the SC/ST Atrocities Act.

38. The pattern of migration of workers is not confined to inter-state migration, but increasingly workers are also migrating abroad in search of higher wages and better opportunities. While Indian professionals settled abroad – doctors, teachers, IT workers and the like – have secured their rights through decades of struggle and have acquired a visible presence in North America, parts of Europe and Australia, blue-collar Indian workers working abroad have to face a very harsh reality marked by racist discrimination and assaults and at times even conditions of semi-bondage. The remittances sent by Indian workers working abroad constitute a much bigger sum than foreign investment, yet the Government of India remains largely apathetic to the insecurity faced by Indian workers abroad even as it goes out of its way to woo foreign investment.

Construction Workers

39. Thanks to the real estate boom all over the country, the construction sector is now the second largest employment provider after agriculture. There is a Central Welfare Act for workers but its implementation is very tardy, half-hearted and partial. We have achieved some progress in unionisation in several states. On that basis we have floated an all India federation of construction workers and are trying to incorporate allied categories like workers engaged in brick-kiln and stone crusher units in the same union. But there is an inevitable risk in this sector that workers tend to view the trade union activists simply as welfare agents. The larger issue of how to approach the workers not as mere beneficiaries but as potential fighters remains to be clinched. Despite a few negative experiences of TU leaders themselves turning into contractors or getting mired in economism and pragmatism, our experience of organising construction workers has generally been quite encouraging with large numbers of unionised workers taking an active role in trade union struggles as well as political actions.

40. Mostly unorganised or weakly organised workers engaged in labour-intensive manufacturing/assembling – such as apparel and footwear, diamond cutting and polishing, making safety matches (where child labour is extensively used), ready-made garment assembly – operate in actual sweatshop conditions. To take the garments sector as a typical example, intensified international competition following the demise of the International Multi-Fibre Arrangement in 2004 has led to further deterioration in working conditions and terms of employment – e.g., lower wages and greater insecurity. The Indian industry has to face tough competition from Bangladesh and other Asian countries including China and the entire burden is passed on to the workers.

Tea Plantation Workers

41. Workers in tea plantations work with low wages and in an environment of systematic violation of trade union rights. The recent assassination of Comrade Gangaram Kol,