India: Union calls for creation of welfare board for migrant workers

The BWI-affiliated Thamizhaga Kattida Thozhilalargal Madhiya Sangam (TKTMS) and the state-wide Migrant Workers' Rights Coalition (MWRC) urged the Non-Resident  Tamils’ (NRT) Welfare Department to constitute the long-delayed NRT Board as mandated by the NRT Act of 2011 to protect the rights of Tamil migrant workers. 

In an online dialogue on 2 June, The NRT, represented by Director Jacintha Lazarus and Assistant Commissioner Ramesh Krishnan, assured TKTMS and MWRC representatives Ponkumar Ponnuswamy, Dr. Bernard D Samy and M Valarmathi that the matter shall be dealt with the highest importance and necessary steps leading to the formation of the board are already being undertaken.

As a follow through, TKTMS submitted on 9 June a memorandum to Minorities Welfare and Non-Resident Tamils Welfare Minister K.S. Masthan reporting on the issues and challenges faced by Tamil-based migrant workers, which the union said that have worsened due to COVID-19. TKTMS reiterated its call for the immediate constitution of NRT Board to extend benefits and services to distressed migrant workers. \

TKTMS President Ponkumar Ponnuswamy expressed hope that their demand for the establishment of the NRT board and specific schemes and programs for migrant workers shall become a reality soon. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the lives and livelihood of many workers across geographical locations.  It is time for the state government to establish a functional board that caters to the issues and needs of migrant workers. We are thankful to the new government for its assurance that it will prioritise our demand. On behalf of the MWRC, we express our support by linking migrant workers to the Board,”  Ponnuswamy said. 

Tamil Nadu is one of the major Indian states exporting migrant workers. BWI trade union affiliates in the state have been actively organising and reaching out to migrant workers. They said that with the onset of COVID-19, migrant workers’ issues and concerns in many destination countries became more challenging and complex, prompting trade unions to intensify their lobby and advocacy efforts to realise key policy reforms.