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#WorkersStrikeBack: MP Govt Splurges on Advertising While 4 Crore Labourers Languish

Kashif Kakvi |
The previous BJP government approved Rs 354 crore for the Department of Public Relations while only Rs. 174 crore was cleared for the Labour Department in 2017-18.
MP workers

Representational Image. | Image Courtesy: Indian Iris

[As lakhs of workers gear up for a historic All India Strike on January 8-9, called for by ten central trade unions, NewsClick brings to you glimpses of the lives of industrial workers in different parts of the country.]

BHOPAL: The heart of India – Madhya Pradesh – is home to more than four crore labourers but the state government hardly cares for them.

An analysis of various government data and reports by NewsClick showed that the previous Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government spent more funds on its advertisement and branding instead of labourers’ rehabilitation and uplift.

In 2017-18, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government approved Rs 174 crore for the Labour Department while this year Rs 320 crore has been allocated, according to the state government budget book. On the other side, the government allocated Rs. 354 crore to the Department of Public Relations (DPR) in 2017-18 and Rs. 329 crore for the current financial year, much higher than the Labour Department’s budget.

Due to lack of jobs and infrastructure, the labour class has been leading a pitiable life and is being forced to migrate to other states for jobs.

According to the 2011 census, out of 7.26 crore gross population of the state, 43% (3.15 crore) of the population are labourers, including factory workers. Of this, 1.14 crore are women and 7.2 lakh are child labour.

The census further revealed that out of 3.15 crore total labour, only 8.85 lakh people work in the organised sector in 15,881 registered factories of the state.

Organised Sector

There are 8.85 lakh employees in the organised sector but their rights are being crushed either by the factory owners or contractors in collusion with the law enforcement agencies.

Even those working in the organised sector work are forced to work overtime, hardly get sick leave or allowance, health or death insurance, and residence facilities while their actual wages are fixed by the Labour Department.

“We mostly work overtime despite getting inadequate salary. It makes our life miserable when inflation is at an all-time high. The union and state governments have been implementing the Seventh pay commission for its employees but our salary has not been revised for the last three years despite our demands,” said a factory worker requesting anonymity, who works in a factory located in Bhopal’s industrial area Mandideep.

When questioned about the implementation of labour laws in the factory, he replied, “No one cares about labour laws when graduate and post graduate youths are dying to get a peon’s job or working in tea shops.”

Unorganised Sector

The exploitation of the labourers engaged in the unorganised sector is on its zenith because of the sheer size of the labouring population. Despite working full day in construction sites, factories, shops, and so on, they hardly earn between Rs. 150-350 a day, much less than the wages fixed by the labour department in various categories. Besides, they are not entitled to health and death insurance.

The state government has been running number of schemes for the rehabilitation and upliftment of the labouring class such as Gramin Awas Yojana, Nagariya Awas Yojana, Marriage Assistance Scheme, funeral and death assistance to unorganised labourers, Special coaching for labourer’s children, health check-up schemes and so on. But it hardly benefits them and most of the schemes are only on paper, claimed the labourers.


Image: Labour Department wage chart

According to the current wages fixed by the Labour Department, a skilled and unskilled labourer should get between Rs. 284 to 420 per day. “But the labourers of Bundelkhand area who mostly work in stone and diamond mining, and agricultural sector hardly get Rs. 150 to 250 per day. They are also deprived of sick allowances and health and death insurance,” said Yusuf Beg, President of the Bundelkhand Aasanghatit Mazdoor Sangh, which has around six lakh members.  

Beg further said, “But the women are the real victims here, they get 30 to 35% less wage than men despite putting in the same work.”

On being questioned about getting the benefits of government schemes run by the Labour and Mining departments, he replied, “To enjoy the benefits of government schemes, one has to be literate, should be able to gather all the required documents, have knowledge of schemes, offices and, most importantly, can arrange a good sum for bribe. Even after that, it takes too much time which makes it almost impossible for a labourer to run from pillar to post to get the benefit of government schemes, instead of working in a factory or a site in order to feed their family.”

Despite all hurdles, if anyone gets it done, the benefits of government schemes are nothing more than peanuts. The government schemes for the labour class are just like the proverbial elephant tusk, which has no real use and are more for show, he added.

Social activist Sachin Jain said, “The unemployment rate is high in Madhya Pradesh and factory owners and contractors know it very well. They exploit the labourers by offering minimum wages and if they raise their voice, they fire them and hire another at the same wage.”

Sambal Yojana

In the wake of the 2019 elections, and to lure the labouring class, the BJP government had launched the Sambal Yojana in April 2018 for unorganised labourers.

Under this scheme, the state government pitted eight schemes for different departments under one umbrella, including maternity allowance, accidental death and natural death allowance, electricity @200, and others. And to fuel this scheme, the state government approved Rs. 800 crore.


Image: Sambal Yojana


From April 1, 2018, to November 5, 2018, (before the election code of conduct was imposed), 2.20 crore people were registered under the scheme while more than 15 lakh applications are still pending.  

According to the state government data, in the last eight months, Rs. 460 crore has been distributed to more than one crore people under various schemes.

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