‘Helpline for migrant workers acts like a post office’

The Stranded Workers Action Network says officials in most cases have stated they had no authority to intervene

The Labour and Employment Ministry’s helpline for migrant workers was more of a post office than a helpline, forwarding complaints of unpaid wages, lack of food and other concerns affecting workers during the lockdown, the Stranded Workers Action Network (SWAN) said in a statement on Monday.

SWAN, which is a group of volunteers that came together to help migrant workers when the first COVID-19 lockdown was imposed in 2020, said the Ministry announced relaunch of its 20 control rooms set up to field distress calls from workers last year. The helplines included contact details of 100 Labour Commissioners across the country, of which 80 were contacted by SWAN, it said.

“Most officials listed in the notice answered the phone. However, their responses varied tremendously across States and even within States. One commissioner in Karnataka even asked us where we got his number from. Another official in Karnataka categorically forbade us from contacting him again … The officials in most cases stated that the cases we were bringing to them were beyond their jurisdiction and they had no authority to intervene,” SWAN said.

In its statement, SWAN said the helplines should be expanded and all calls should be registered so that the complaint could be tracked.

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