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With the help of Ajeevika Bureau, WPC has set up an all India national Mediation and Legal Aid Centre with links in different states to help workers, especially migrant workers to ask for help with the issues they may be facing at their places of work, and to provide information that can help them to access their entitlements. The centre is based in Mumbai and paralegal staff are available at five states to begin with, namely Delhi, UP, Karnataka, Telangana, and Maharashtra. In 2022 the Centre will expand to more states.

About

While the COVID pandemic is a huge crisis, it has vividly shown the urgency to create a legal and mediation framework which will address the issues and gap in providing legal aid and mediation for the problems faced at worksite. The pandemic emphasized the need for strengthening and reforming the Labour Department: plagued by inefficient governance and administration and lack of human and financial resources. The lockdown affected the migrants and unorganised workers most, because of the lack of alternatives to fend for themselves, and no means for accessing information regarding schemes or entitlements as required.

India Labourline is a direct response to the need of support for migrant workers and all those working in the informal sector in India. Informal work means precarious work, involving irregular and insecure work in unsafe workplaces, for long hours, low wages and no security. In addition to this is the high prevalence of work-related frauds such as wage theft, bondage, physical and verbal abuse, and non-payment of compensation following accidents in hazardous workplaces. There are deep-rooted vulnerabilities in terms of access to basic necessities in times of crisis as was seen during the pandemic and the lockdowns. The helpline, which started operation on July 16th, tries to address these and other issues by providing information, advice, mediation, and legal aid as needed.

India Labourline is headquartered in Mumbai. The tele counsellors are trained to provide a first level of counselling/intervention over the phone to workers before handing it over to the concerned State Facilitation Centres, which are responsible for undertaking field-level interventions in legal disputes that are registered with the Helpline. State centres are functional in the following states at present: Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana. The helpline also helps workers by connecting them to appropriate stakeholders, such as, police, labour department’s etc. In case where all mediation or referral have failed, the workers are given help to approach the courts.

The helpline, has been operational since July 16, 2021 and has its headquarters in Mumbai. In the last two months, the helpline has received 2497 calls and provided mediation to 507 workers in distress from states like Delhi, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Jammu Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana and Tamil Nadu. It was started in response to the urgency to create a framework to address the issues and bridge the gap in providing legal aid and mediation services for the problems faced by workers at the worksite. The lack of such resources was clearly evidenced by the plight suffered by the workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic also emphasized the need for strengthening and reforming the Labour Department which is currently plagued by inefficient governance and administration and absence of human and financial resources.

In addition to providing information, advice, mediation, and legal aid, the tele counsellors on the helpline are trained to provide the first level of counselling/intervention over the phone to workers. Thereafter, the cases of the workers are handed over to the concerned ‘State Facilitation Centres’ which are responsible for undertaking field-level interventions in legal disputes registered with the helpline. State centres are functional in the following states at present: Maharashtra, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Telangana. The helpline also assists workers by connecting them to appropriate stakeholders, such as, police, labour department, etc. In cases where all mediation or referral have failed, the workers are provided help to approach the courts in India.

Before starting the helpline, i.e. India Labourline on 15th of July 2021, WPC created the foundation with the help and experience of the Aajeevika Bureau. The activities involved:

Setting up technology infrastructure for helpline

Outreach and awareness generation

Training and Capacity enhancement of tele counsellors at Aajeevika’s HQ in Udaipur

Training and Capacity enhancement of state coordinators

Setting up the state facilitation centres with WPC network partners in Telangana, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Maharashtra.

Monthly Report

From July 2021 till 30th September 2021, four Tele counsellors (Hindi, Marathi, Kannada and Telugu) based out of our Mumbai office have had 2497 Conversations.

Through these conversations, our tele counsellors and field teams have been in touch with 685 Workers in Distress.

Details of Workers have been added to our MIS system. They heard about us from following outreach activities in the last 2 months.

We are currently tracking around 666 Cases for our Workers Community out of which:

537 Individual Cases

125 Group Cases

In resolved cases:

156 cases were for information

62 were for wage disputes

One case was related to worksite harassment

Total 244 wage cases are still in process.

Type of Cases:

Currently, we have 365 wage theft cases, 6 accident compensation cases and 3 worksite harassment cases. Along with this, we have received 250 calls for getting information on labour cards and entitlements.

Size of the wage theft cases in terms of currency = Rs 13,268,874/-

From this, the helpline was able to recover Rs 1,771,469/- only through mediation and legal aid.

Geographic Distribution of Cases:

The calls were from 18 states, majorly from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana and Delhi and the workers are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Telangana.

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