The strong protest by Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), both in India and the world fora, against the death of about 700 migrant workers from South Asian countries in Qatar during the last five years forced the Qatar government to take immediate corrective steps. The Qatar Government has assured the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to ensure full safety and facilities to the migrant labourers working anywhere in the country.
Apart from stating protest outside Qatar Embassy in New Delhi and presenting memorandum to Indian Foreign Minister, the BMS raised the issue at June 2015 ILO Conference in Genewa. The ILO’s experts committee investigated the matter and in response the Qatar Government assured the ILO of “workers safety in future”.
ILO directives to
It is to be noted that about 1.5 million migrant workers from South Asian countries including India, Nepal and Pakistan are working in Doha for the last five years for the preparations of 2022 World Football Cup. They are being reportedly treated inhumanly. They are also forced to work for more than 14 hours without any brake for meals and even drinking water. Many of them have reached the stage of starvation and are suffering from critical diseases. The contractors snatch their passports to stop them from leaving the country. It is done under the controversial Act, kafala, which keeps a migrant worker like a slave.
Al-Khulaifi, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Qatar government assured the ILO on June 10 that the Government has adopted sound policies in collaboration with the regional and international organisations to promote the respect and protection of workers’ rights. It deployed every effort to protect the rights of migrant workers. “The government is preparing a Bill on the termination of sponsorship (kafala) system and its replacement with an employment contact system. The amendments would be made to allow the workers to leave their employer after obtaining authorisation from the competent government authority, without prior authorisation by the employer,” the Minister said.
In its report the ILO’s expert committee hoped that the proposed legislation by Qatar Government would make it possible to suppress the restricts and obstacles that limit the migrant workers’ freedom of movement and prevent them terminating their employment relationship in case of abuse, authorise workers to leave their employment at certain intervals or after having been given reasonable notice, review the procedure of issuing exit visas, and guarantee access to rapid and efficient complaint mechanism to enforce workers’ rights throughout the country.
After the worldwide protest the Qatar Government has now set up a new hotline and a dedicated email address, as well as accounts on social media networks (on Facebook and Twitter) to receive the workers’ complaints and address them promptly. A new mechanism to submit complaints to various authorities through single window system have been established at the specialised labour departments. Furthermore offices at the courts had been established in order to assist workers with legal proceedings, free of charge.
On the subject of inspection and the enforcement of laws, “the number of labour inspectors have been increased from 150 to 294. Moreover, labour inspectors have been provided with modern handled devices (tablets) to enable them to collect information electronically and save time in preparing reports, which previously had to be established upon their return to their offices,” the Qatar representative informed the ILO.
Though the Qatar government has claimed to have taken some steps, the BMS is not satisfied with them. BMS national president Shri Baijnath Rai, who attended the ILO Conference, said there has been a proposal to abolish kafala but no definite timeframe has been set for it. Similarly, the number of labour inspectors, even though to be increased to 294, is insufficient in view of the large number of workforce, Shri Rai added.
Pramod Kumar (July 12, 2015 Page : 46)