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RTI findings show exploitation of Meghalaya’s casual workers


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Shillong, April 4: RTI findings revealed rampant and systemic exploitation of casual workers employed across various state government departments and agencies in the state.
The information, shared by RTI activist Napoleon S Mawphniang, highlighted oppressive and dehumanizing working conditions imposed on these workers.
Mawphniang, who is also an advocate, said the casual workers are considered the backbone, supporting critical government operations and public services in the state.
“However, the state government has displayed a shocking dereliction of duty in ensuring even the bare minimum rights and protections for these workers as mandated by law,” he said.
The grim reality faced by casual workers includes abysmally low wages inadequate for a basic standard of living. They are deprived of legally entitled leave benefits including maternity leave, denied overtime pay, excluded from EPF and ESI social security schemes, and subjected to illegal ‘no work no pay’ policies, he alleged.
The Meghalaya Regular Casual Workers Scheme, 1996, meant to safeguard basic rights of such workers, continues to be blatantly disregarded and violated by a majority of government departments.
The Department of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry is complying with the scheme but the Health Department is not.
Teachers employed on casual contracts in colleges and schools as well as casual workers under the Public Health Engineering (PHE) department in Mawphlang have been illegally excluded from subscribing to EPF and ESI schemes despite being legally entitled to enrolment under these social security programmes.
Mawphniang said fundamental labour laws like the Payment of Wages Act, the Shops and Establishment Act and the constitutional principle of Equal Pay for Equal Work have not been implemented in letter and spirit across the state.
Furthermore, he said the long-awaited establishment of a Labour Court in Meghalaya under the Labour Commissioner remains non-functional and mired in bureaucratic delays, leaving workers with no avenue to seek legal redressal for grievances.
According to him, the Labour Department itself has admitted to being unable and unwilling to take any action against errant government bodies and officials flouting worker rights and labour law compliance.
The RTI activist said this has perpetuated a culture of impunity and enabled labour exploitation to continue unabated.
“It is an abominable crime that the state government has not just turned a blind eye, but actively enabled an ecosystem where casual workers employed by its very own departments and agencies are being openly exploited by labour contractors and principal employers. This is nothing less than legitimized modern day slavery and bonded labour happening right under the government’s watch,” Mawphniang said.
He accused central government agencies of failing in their responsibility to monitor implementation and ensure protection of workers’ rights and welfare as guaranteed by the Constitution and various labour legislations.
He urged Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma to direct all departments to strictly comply with the letter and spirit of Meghalaya Regular Casual Workers’ Scheme 1996, various labour laws, expedite implementation of workers’ welfare schemes and benefits like EPF and ESI, and establish strong grievance redressal mechanisms with provisions for stringent punitive actions against violators.


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