“Make Pravasi Baratiya Divas more democratic, inclusive”
Representatives of migrant, domestic worker and human rights organisations, besides trade unions, held a demonstration at Jantar Mantar here on Tuesday to demand that the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) be made more democratic, representative and inclusive.
Stating that the PBD should be made a platform for discussing the problems of labour diaspora and that its agenda should include issues of migrant workers, the protestors also demanded the ratification of the Migrant Workers Convention of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the United Nations.
They sought recognition of the workers’ right to form trade unions and collectively bargain, placement of the proposed Emigration Management Bill, 2011, for public debate and consultation, inclusion of labour rights, wage, working conditions, social protection, and healthcare for migrant workers in the bilateral labour agreement.
The activists also demanded inclusion of the representation of low and semi-skilled migrant workers in the PBD, registration of sub-agents and agencies involved in overseas recruitment and introduction of contracts in compliance with ILO standards, besides establishment of the Ministry for Migrant Workers in each State.
“The PBD this year is being celebrated to mark the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi, the legendary Pravasi who returned from South Africa to lead the freedom struggle. During his stay in South Africa, Gandhiji led anti-racist struggles for freedom and justice for Indian expatriates, who were overwhelmingly drawn from labouring communities. Ironically enough, the celebration does not give adequate attention to the problems confronted by migrant workers and their suffering in foreign countries, especially in the Gulf region,” said a protestor.
The protestors said no attempt had been made in the annual PBD conventions to focus on issues such as the working or living conditions, wages, lack of social security, medical/health facilities and violation of human rights of migrant workers. The programme schedule of this year’s convention indicates the same. It has allotted less than 20 minutes on Day Three [Thursday] to discuss “issues faced by the Gulf NRIs”, they pointed out.
Addressing the gathering, some speakers said the need to pay attention to these concerns was supported by growing instances of the abuse of migrant workers, such as the recent case in Singapore. A parallel event such as the “Aam Pravasi Bharatiya Divas”, as the protest was titled, is very significant to highlight these problems in the public discourse,” they said.
Condemning “the one-sided response of the government in the Devyani Khobragade-Sangeeta Richard case”, Swami Agnivesh stressed the need for such events to recognise the case of the “Aam Pravasi”.
Among those who participated in the demonstration were domestic workers and migrant workers from various States, including Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Haryana, Bihar and Jharkhand. Many participants shared their unpleasant experiences, such as paying huge sums of money to recruiting agents and their passports getting confiscated on arrival in the destination country. Many were forced to work in humiliating conditions and they struggled getting back home.