Labour policy

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It is apparent that labour system, if at all it could be called a system, is not organized in Nagaland. There is a mess in it at multiple levels. The indigenous labouring has got replaced by migrant labouring largely in the name of skills and social ‘status’. The migrant labourers, as our observations reveal, come here as unskilled labourers and after a short span of time they become skilled people. They rise to the skilled levels by virtue of experiences of hit and trial. The emergence of migrant labourers in unskilled as well as skilled fields has rendered the local otherwise-workmen almost functionless. The workers or labourers whether unskilled or skilled do not have an organized or a disciplined or say a controlled system where there should have been proportionate practices of works and wages justified for both parties – one the labour, second the owner for whom he/she works. Instead, there is a vague and random system of works and wages in vogue especially in the civil labour areas. Government and its concerned labour agencies and departments have devised rules and laid down statistics for minimum wages for labourers under various categories, but it is inadequate and hence openly flouted. The minimum wages for unskilled, skilled and highly skilled and ministerial labourers approved by the Government is outdated and needs revival, especially with the 7th Pay Commission coming into force in the State. The Government should do its part that pertains to labourers associated with Government sector directly or indirectly so that the lot may not suffer in these times of dearness when there is huge inflation. That said, the Government must also look into the condition of labourers outside the Government sector – their needs should be surveyed, researched and brought under a common policy of equity and justice. Here in our State no particular criteria fit the scale, because there is no scale existing – whom you call skilled and who is highly skilled. A plain labourer working in a field or on a roadside on an average day is paid Rs 400 a day, he/she is a civil labourer, is not entitled to any regularization by any Government or private firm. Barring the quantum of work he/she does, which is a separate issue, the wages for the day are too meagre for him/her to meet his/her needs and to feed his/her family. It is a fact that ‘skilled’ and perhaps ‘highly skilled’ workmen, rather, technicians in the field, charge rates on the basis of number of gadgets, tools, fittings or appliances they install or fit or implant at a particular place. Their rates seem very high, but they are themselves ‘competent’ to fix and then to hike the rates whenever they wish. Who can challenge them? There are no controlling agencies seen on ground to check them, their genuineness of rates and their quality of work. Clearly wages and works, both need to be taken into account for categorization of unskilled, skilled and highly skilled phenomena, and contract work evaluation can be applied for the assessment of an average daily work by a labour, unskilled or skilled. Skilled labourers in our State normally do work on contract basis, but here too rates are not governed by any governing agency. Instead, self-fixed rates run in vogue. What the so called skilled headmen or the thikadar (as we call them) do, they charge skilled labour/rate to the owner for all the workmen but pay less to their labourers who are not skilled. This way they deceive the owner and also exploit the poor labourers. Today private sector employees or workmen are paid less wages. Highly qualified and skilled people working in private sector enterprises, corporations, factories, schools and companies work hard to give good results but perhaps recruitment rules and labour laws have least provisions to help these people to earn better salaries. The Government and other stake holders must rise to the occasion to look into the matter of labourers and private sector employees or whatever the nomenclature of the victimized lot may be. After a systematic survey, the Government should come up with a labour policy that will address all the seen, unseen issues of work, wages and the workers. And then ensure that the policy is implemented in toto.