15 firms face criminal charges for Labour law violations

At least 15 leading private infrastructure and  construction companies, who were executing work for the Bangalore based Namma Metro project, have been slapped with criminal cases by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment for allegedly violation of labour laws.

A report was submitted by the Deputy Chief Labour Commissioner (Central), Ministry of Labour and Employment, Bangalore, to the Karnataka High Court last week. A public interest litigation petition was filed as social worker, Samuel Sathyaseelan, highlighting teh non-compliance of various laws that intend to protect the interests of the labourers involved in this project.

Inspections of Project Sites

The report was presented after inspections conducted by the Labour officials at various locations of the project, which included the construction sites, various project offices, and housing camps for the labourers hired by the various firms involved in this project.

In the month of March, the court had asked the Labour Ministry to respond to some complaints filed about non-compliance of labour laws which were concerned with the welfare of labourers primarily contracted ones .

The report pointed out that majority of the firms had workers hired from other States. It said that the organizations involved in the project had obtained no licence to recruit migrant workers which is mandatory under the Inter-State Migrant Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act. Another major violation cited was improper or practically no maintenance of registers for labourers, wage slips, and any employment cards.

Criminal Cases have been filed before the metropolitan magistrate court on the basis of this inspection report – Assistant Solicitor General of India S. Kalyan Basavaraj has said.

Namma Metro’s argument

The Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd’s (Namma Metro holding Company) legal counsel, however, contended this notice stating that the law on migrant workers is not applicable in this case, as the labourers hired by the firms were not recruited from other States but had been recruited locally.

Seven companies have allegedly flouted Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act norms, while majority of the companies involved in the project have complied with the provisions of (BOCW) Building and Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act.

The Ministry has filed complaints against Kalindee Rail Nirman (Engineers Ltd) and Johnson Lifts Pvt Ltd for carrying out work without registering as per the BOCW Act.

Standards of Labours’ Housing Camps

The report pointed our that the labourers were living in abysmal living hygiene conditions related to their quarters, toilets and other washing areas. The labourers had been provided temporary shelters and other facilities such as utensils, cooking gas and so on. The report mentioned that some firms have failed to maintain living standards needed, while most others met the conditions or improved them on notice.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice B.V. Nagarathna have adjourned the hearing to 3rd July 2013 and have directed the Labour Ministry to conduct follow-up actions. The Bench has also asked the State government to report compliance of laws by the Namma Project contractors to protect the interest of labourers.

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