Delhi labour dept issues advisory to implement Minimum Wages Act, but experts say paucity of inspectors makes it impossible

The minimum wages to be paid to labourers was increased by 34 percent, by a notification issued by the Government of Delhi last year. At present, unskilled labourers are entitled to a minimum wage of Rs 14,000 per month, semi-skilled labourers, Rs 15,400 per month, and skilled labourers, Rs 16,962.

Kangkan Acharyya January 02, 2019 15:02:29 IST
Delhi labour dept issues advisory to implement Minimum Wages Act, but experts say paucity of inspectors makes it impossible

In an advisory issued on Monday, the Delhi labour department observes that outsourced companies engaged in operations of government agencies were seriously violating the Minimum Wages Act. The advisory seeks to remind the employers to enforce the law with immediate effect, or face legal consequences.

The advisory was issued after Delhi labour minister Gopal Rai conducted a 10-day drive at various companies and establishments to enquire about the extent of violations of the Minimum Wages Act.

"During the drive, statements by workers and employees revealed that outsourced workers employed by contractors in government establishments or government hospitals are not being paid notified rates of minimum wages, which were effective from 1 November, 2018," reads the advisory signed by Additional Labour Commissioner Dr Rajender Dhar.

"Any violation of these provisions attracts prosecution or challans under the relevant provisions of labour laws, both against the principal employer, as well as the contractor."

The minimum wages to be paid to labourers was increased by 34 percent, by a notification issued by the Government of Delhi last year. At present, unskilled labourers are entitled to a minimum wage of Rs 14,000 per month, semi-skilled labourers, Rs 15,400 per month, and skilled labourers, Rs 16,962.

A recent complaint in the Delhi Jal Board claims that though the outsourced companies engaged by the board pay their labourers as per the requirement of the Minimum Wages Act, they take a chunk of the money back by applying coercive measures.

Delhi labour dept issues advisory to implement Minimum Wages Act but experts say paucity of inspectors makes it impossible

Representational image. Reuters.

"These companies transfer the wages to the bank accounts of the labourers as per the requirement of the Minimum Wages Act. But they do it only to appear as though they are following the norms set by the law. Soon, a chunk of that money is collected back from the labourers," alleged Manwar Singh Rawat, secretary of the Municipal Workers' Lal Jhanda Union, at the Delhi Jal board.

He added that many companies keep the labourers' debit cards with them, which they use to withdraw a portion of the money the workers are paid. "As a result of this atrocity, a labourer is paid Rs 9,000 at most, which is far below the minimum wage," he said

Sources in the Delhi Jal Board said there are nearly 1,500 labourers from outsourced companies who work at various plants under the board. Rawat said authorities had been informed about this atrocity through complaints, but to no avail. However, sources in the board deny having received any such complaint.

Rakesh Kaushik, sectional officer in the Delhi Jal Board, told Firstpost, "We have received no complaint related to outsourced companies taking back a chunk of the wages they pay labourers. I would have known if there were any such complaints."

Rawat also alleged that the victims of this atrocity often do not speak up out of fear of losing their job. "This is why the union stepped in to complain on their behalf," he said, asserting that the complaint had been laid on the table of the Delhi Jal Board.

Although the new advisory by the Department of Labour has raised hope among daily-wage labourers, lawyer-activist Ashok Agarwal said is was only an election stunt.

"An advisory cannot change the fate of the labourers as there is no sustained effort by the government to to ensure that minimum wages are paid. For continuous effort, the department needs an army of labour inspectors, which it does not have," he added.

Sources in the labour department said there are only 14 labour inspectors in Delhi to oversee the operations of nearly two lakh companies and 60 lakh labourers in the city, as per the records of labour unions.

Agarwal said that there was no visible effort to fill these vacancies either. "How can a department with a handful of individuals implement such a gargantuan task?" he questioned.

However, Additional Commissioner (Labour) Dr Rajender Dhar disagreed with this view. When asked about how the department was managing with a paucity pf manpower, he said, "Lack of manpower cannot deter us from our work. Anyone who files a complaint about a labour law violation receives prompt action."

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