ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Systemic Loopholes in the Contract Labour System

Iron Ore Mines in Jharkhand

The many provisions granted under the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970 remain elusive when the absence of a direct employer–employee relationship mars their rights and chances of a meaningful work life. The article reviews the contract labour system as maintained in an iron ore mine in Jharkhand.

Contract labour forms a large chunk of employment in industries in India. Their presence is not only there in the informal sector but also in the formal sector. As per the Annual Survey of Industries, from 2008–09 to 2017–18, the number of persons employed through contractors increased from 2.7 million to 4.4 million. In formal establishments, this workforce is supposed to be deployed in peripheral and seasonal jobs; however, this is often violated with establishments deploying them in core1 and perennial activities and thereby violating the principle of “equal pay for equal work.” This segment of workers has also gained traction because it provides flexibility to organisations, making it easier to focus on its core activities. The integrity of this argument is, however, under contention. In a neo-liberal, competitive market, the contract labour system is seen as a cost-cutting strategy by organisations whereby the contract labourers are employed without the traditional rights and support systems available to their regular employed counterparts.

According to Kapoor and Krishnapriya (2019), the share of contract labourers in total employment in the organised sector rose from 15.5% in 2000–01 to 27.9% in 2015–16. The numbers are bound to increase even further, catapulting the logic of flexible use of contract labour in the management of business organisations. The absence of data for contract labour employed in the unorganised sector leaves a significant chunk of them outside the purview of scrutiny.

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Updated On : 5th Mar, 2022
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