The Bombay High Court on July 11 directed the Maharashtra government to give a timeline as to when the proposed policies of prevention of sexual harassment, medical facilities, insurance, education, and safety for migrant sugarcane workers will be implemented.
The court took suo motu cognisance of an article by The Hindu on the financial and sexual exploitation of Maharashtra’s migrant workers in the State’s sugar belt.
A Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice N.M. Jamdar and Justice Arif Doctor was hearing a petition based on the article published on March 8 in The Hindu titled, “Sugar-belt shocker: The financial and sexual abuse of Maharashtra’s migrant workforce”. The article deals with the plight of migrant workers from the drought-affected areas of the Marathwada region. They are required to migrate to the sugar belt of the State — western Maharashtra’s Sangli, Kolhapur, Pune, Satara, Solapur, and Ahmednagar.
Based on the affidavit filed by the Maharashtra government, the Bench on Tuesday directed the State to give a timeline as to when each of the proposed policies will be implemented in terms of prevention of sexual harassment, medical facilities, insurance, education, and safety. The Bench also directed that the Sugar Factory Federation (both cooperative and private) as well as the Gopinath Munde Mahamandal be added as respondents by August 4.
The affidavit filed by Deputy Commissioner of Labour Sanket Kanade said, “The sugar factories in the State have covered 8,88,613 migrant workers under various insurance schemes. The sugarcane factory workers migrate from one district to another and in accordance with ‘one nation one ration card’ scheme, about 72,699 sugarcane workers have been provided with ration card portability.”
“The process of connecting about 1,20,483 sugarcane factory workers in 94 private and 100 co-operative sugarcane factories with the medical camp and health checkup along with other health facilities is in process. A decision has been made to form a co-ordinating and monitoring committee at the State and district levels, including representatives of the Sugar Commissioner, Labour Commissioner, Social Justice Commissioner, Police department and two representatives of workers’ unions to periodically review the welfare schemes and other initiatives of the government and sugar factories with respect to the migrant workers.