Monday, Sep 06, 2004
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By S. Dorairaj
CHENNAI, SEPT. 5. The Tamil Maanila Vivasaya Thozhilalar Sangam, State unit of the All-India Agricultural Workers' Union has appealed to the Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA) to support the demand for a comprehensive legislation to ensure social security and minimum wages to farmhands.
R. Mutharasan, general secretary told The Hindu today that letters were sent to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Congress, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Pattali Makkal Katchi, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India, urging them to take up the issue at coordination panel meetings of the United Progressive Alliance and the Left parties. They were also urged to ask their members of Parliament to take steps on this issue as per the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA.
According to him, the law would benefit one-crore farm workers in the State. The Kolappan committee, formed by the Government in 1997 pointed out that the number of agricultural labourers in the State was 78.96 lakhs including 37.24 lakh women, forming the largest segment of workers in the unorganised sector.
The condition of the farm workers in the State was bad, with administrative measures to enhance rural economy making little impact on their life, he said. Their social status in the rural hierarchy and inadequate bargaining pow er came in the way of getting a reasonably good wage structure.
Apart from the seasonal nature of their work, drought conditions played havoc with their life. Recurring monsoon failure resulted in largescale migration, even from the delta districts, to other States. The National Commission on Rural Labour brought to light the sorry state of affairs in which over a crore farm workers in the country were forced to lead a nomadic life, owing to drought or flood, Mr. Mutharasan said.
The comprehensive law would confer trade union rights on farm hands, ensure employment guarantee and extend facilities such as a gratuity-cum-provident fund, old-age pension, equal wage for equal work, compensation for accident losses, maternity benefits, a disputes redress forum and a separate department for them.
Views were expressed in favour of the legislation not only during discussions in Parliament but also during reviews by parliamentary standing panels. The State Labour Ministers supported it. A high-level committee comprising MPs gave its recommendations after field studies, he said.
However, the farm workers' unions were ``dismayed'' at the absence of any reference to the issue in the President's Address to the joint session of Parliament, he said. A countrywide demonstration was held on August 9 to highlight the demand.
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