HC against loading heavy goods on heads of workers

Directing govt. to take steps to tackle it, court terms practice was a relic of past

December 14, 2021 07:46 pm | Updated 07:48 pm IST - Kochi

Terming the practice of carrying heavy loads on the head or body of workers as “dehumanising activity”, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday directed the State government to take steps to tackle it.

Justice Devan Ramachandran observed that the Kerala Headload Workers Act which permitted such a practice was a relic of the past.

“How could our citizens be subject to such torture. It had deleterious effects on the spine. No one can carry heavy weight like this for several hours and that too for years. No other country puts its citizens to such dehumanising activity,” the court added.

The court made these oral observations while hearing a petition by a hotel owner seeking police protection for loading and unloading of goods with his own workers.

The court observed that headload workers were poor people who had no other job options and, in fact, their plight was exploited by certain vested interests, including political parties, for their own reasons. The court observed that the term ‘headload’ in the statute had to go and ought to be replaced with ‘loading’.

The court also asked why machines were not being used to aid workers and added that it was not saying headload activity should be stopped altogether. “I want them to be equipped and trained to use machines to carry out loading activity.”

“Besides, they should be rehabilitated, not thrown out of their jobs. The statute was 50 years old. The situation had changed now. It was high time the government thought of ameliorating their plight.”

The court also asked the State government to inform the court about the nature of the amendments it proposed to bring to the Kerala Headload Workers Act.

The government pleader submitted that the Act would be amended to enable the workers board to initiate disciplinary proceedings against those who demanded ‘nokkukooli’.

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