Friday, May 04, 2007

  14:14 IST
The Minister of State(Independent Charge) for Labour and Employment, Shri Oscar Fernandes has said that the Government proposes to make Plantation Labour Act, 1951 more stringent to ensure welfare and safety of workers. Addressing the meeting of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee attached to his Ministry here yesterday evening, Shri Fernandes said that eleven changes including incorporating a new chapter are proposed for amending the Act. He said safety precautions should be made part of the Act particularly in handling of agro-chemicals specially insecticides and herbicides. He said it is also necessary to amend the Act to enable the Central Government to prohibit, restrict or regulate employment of women and children below 14 years for handling hazardous chemicals in plantations. Shri Fernandes said that the basic approach to changes in the Act should be to increase the competitiveness of the plantation industry and to build on the capacity of the workforce employed in this sector.

The Labour Minister also referred to proposed amendments in the Employees’ Provident Fund and Misc. Provisions Act (EPF & MP Act) to secure compliance and to arrest the default by establishments. He said that his Ministry is aware of the default by some establishments and the amount of arrears outstanding is around Rs. 2,500 crore which is a little over one per cent of the total progressive collection. The Minister said that one of the measures taken by the EPFO to curtail default and improve service delivery is embarking on a total computerisation process. Its aim is to identify the default immediately on its occurrence and also to provide service delivery on anywhere, anytime basis. He said the project is now at a critical stage and the trial run in the pilot offices is already on. It will be soon replicated in all the field offices of the EPFO, he added.

Participating in the meeting, the Members of Parliament, Shri Gurudas Dasgupta and Shri Dawa Narbula welcomed the proposed amendments in the Plantation Labour Act and the EPF and MP Act. They said that these Acts should be implemented more effectively particularly in tea gardens where they alleged that the Plantation Act is not being implemented. They also said that managements of plantations are committing default by not depositing EPF deductions of the employees which they said is a serious offence. Shri Gurudas Dasgupta said that the default is maximum in Jute and Tea industry. He said that the non-payment of the employees share to Employees’ Provident Fund should also be made punishable with imprisonment like the non-payment of employees share. Shri Fernandes said that the Ministry would look into these issues.

The Labour Secretary, Smt. Sudha Pillai told the meeting that V.V. Giri National Labour Institute has undertaken a study for strengthening of labour laws.

Earlier, the meeting, which was also attended by senior officials of Labour and Commerce Ministries, condoled the death of sitting member of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee, Shri Chittabrata Majumdar who died in February this year. In a condolence resolution, it was stated that in Shri Majumdar’s passing away the country has lost a prominent trade unionist and able parliamentarian. The meeting observed one minute’s silence in honour of late Shri Majumdar.

MLD/LK/L-257(parl. Consl. Comm. Meeting)(4.5.07)