Labour Law & Hr Consultant
Harsh Kumar Mehta
Consultant In Labour Laws/hr
Head - Outsourcing
Korgaonkar K A

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Dear All
Contract Labour (R & A) Act is applicable to the place where any Industry, trade, business, manufacture or occupation is carried on. In other words the Act has been extended to Industries covered under the Factories Act, Shops & Establishments Act, Mines Act and Plantation Act. Will the Act be applicable where totally agricultural activities are carried on ?. There are thousands of contract workers working in the sugar cane fields - especially cutting and transporting the sugar cane to the Sugar mills. While Minimum wages are notified by some State Govts, agricultural activity has not been declared as an Industry so far. What are the labour laws applicable for the lakhs of contract workers mostly engaged in the agricultural activities ?. I request veterens in the labour law profession to clarify the legal position.
N Nataraajhan, Sakthi Management Services

Dear Nataraajhan ji,

You have asked a very big question here.

You have rightly said that thousands of contract workers working in the sugar cane fields - especially cutting and transporting the sugar cane to the Sugar mills. The system of contract labour prevalent in agricultural and allied operations in very large scale. In Urban India, contract and sub-contract as well as migratory agricultural labours make up the most of the unorganised labour force. 90% of this labour force do not have social security and other benefits of employment as in the organized sector.

To answer to your question, I would say only the minimum wage Act is applicable to the agricultural and allied operations but I have a doubt on its enforcement.

However, if the agricultural and allied operations are run systematically as an industry or trade or business or occupation, in such case all the labour laws should be made applicable depending upon there applicability.

The conditions of contract labour in India including of in unorganised sector are studied by various Commissions, Committees, Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour - before independence and after independence. All these have found their condition to be appalling and exploitative in nature.

But till date no special law is enacted to protect the interest of agricultural labours alike BOCW Act for construction or Domestic Workers Act, Beedi and Cigar Workers Act.

The Supreme Court of India in the case of Standard Vacuum Refinery Company Vs. their workmen observed that contract labour should not be employed where:

(a) The work is perennial and must go on from day to day;

(b) The work is incidental to and necessary for the work of the factory;

(c) The work is sufficient to employ considerable number of whole time workmen; and

(d) The work is being done in most concerns through regular workmen.

But this is applicable to organised sector. But the another big question is, is it really happening there in organised sector?

Dear Natarajan,

While appreciating your specific concern for the plight of agricultural labour engaged through contractors in certain agricultural operations and Korgaonkar's general statement of the Contract Labour (R&A ) Act's diluted implementation, I may be permitted to point out in the first place that the sphere of agriculture, per se, is not exempted from the purview of the CLRA Act,1970. When agriculture is carried out in an integrated manner as normally done in the West, it too automatically becomes an industry. But the Indian scenario is entirely different. Here, we have small and marginal farmers owning the major portion of agricultural holdings. After the advent of far-reaching Statutory reforms like the abolition of the Zameendari system, land - ceiling etc., fragmentation of land holdings has increased.Co-Operative form of agriculture did not get the due thrust for carrying out the cultivation in an integrated manner and on large-scale. Hence, the prevalence of contract labour system in operations like sugar-cane cutting. If you are hailing from the Delta Region of Tamilnadu, I hope that you will certainly admit the fact that agricultural operations are getting gradually dwindled because of higher wages and lesser effective working hours among many other reasons. The notified minimum wages are generally less than the prevailing market rates.The dearth of agricultural labour and their effective mobilisation coupled with the seasonality of the operations, in my opinion, acts as a positive restraint in exploitative tendency relating to payment of wages. Secondly, if a conjunctive reading of Sections 1(5) and 2 (e) is made, one will find it very difficult to bring the labour force mentioned in the thread within the fold of the CLRA Act,1970 unless the operations are carried out by the establishment in an integrated manner or on large scale farming. Coming to Mr.Korgaonkar, actually there is a special piece of Labour Legislation in the State of Kerala styled as " The Kerala Agricultural Workers Act,1974" to provide for the welfare of agricultural workers in the State and to regulate the conditions of their work. There are provisions for settlement of "agricultural disputes" through conciliation officers, Agricultural Tribunals, establishment of Agricultural Workers Welfare Fund adminstered by the Agricultural Workers Welfare Board through periodic contributions raised from land-owners and registered agricultural workers, hours of work, intervals for rest, over-time wages, harvest wages, pension from the fund for workmen after 60 years of age etc.

1. Sir, the position of applicability of labour laws in agriculture sector has been well explained by senior and experts in their earlier posts. I may, however, want to add that some of labour laws viz.Payment of Wages Act, Equal Remuneration Act, Plantation Labour Act etc. are already applicable in selected parts of agricultural labour viz. plantations etc. as mentioned in said Acts. However, in major labour laws viz. in ESI Act, 1948 there are enabling provisions vide which the appropriate government can extend the provisions to other type of establishments including agriculture. However, considering peculiar nature of unorganised sector the government has not done much in order to protect the interests of agricultural/rural labour.

2. As mentioned by one of experts above, Kerala State firstly enacted the Kerala Agricultural Workers Act, 1974. Tripura and Tamil Nadu State Govts. have perhaps also enacted such Acts protecting the rights of agricultural workers. None of the other States appears to have any such Act protecting the rights of the agricultural labour.

3. The Government of India, in the year 1987 had set up National Commission on Rural Labour. It submitted its report in the year 1991, but the implementation or its recommendations are still pending with the govt. The Govt., when the question of providing social security etc. to the agricultural labour arises, always mention that they are providing social security to such agricultural labour through the Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 and some other schemes like MNREGA, 2005 etc. But this all appears on paper only and I think there is no effective machinery vide which the agricultural labour working in sugarcane etc. can be covered. Few years back, there was a proposal to extend ESI Act, 1948 to sugar industries, but the said proposal was opposed by such industries on the plea that such industries are seasonal and has very less regular staff/workers.

4. At present, nothing can be expected from the present central government, which is following the instructions coming from world bank, or from the supporters of leisseiz- faire policy and free economy at the costs of welfare of working population in order to maintain high production rate in industrial sector. The scope of coverage for social security for industrial employees is being narrowed down or curtailed. In the present situation, I think, there appears to be no scope for any comprehensive scheme for the welfare of agricultural labour.

Dear Sir, I need help New Factory Establishment documents & Form required. MPCBMIDC plotElectrical connectionWater ConnectionFactory licenses ·
Sir,I need help we have plenty of farm workers in contact
but problem now is what agreement should be made with landowners
wht approval letter should i get from Government?
I did few demo recruiting business by fixed monthly salary for workers,its working out to us
pls suggest

Sir,I need help we have plenty of farm workers in contact
but problem now is what agreement should be made with landowners
wht approval letter should i get from Government?
I did few demo recruiting business by fixed monthly salary for workers,its working out to us
pls suggest us

Pl contact us in case if you are interested in the compliance of various labour laws applicable to the agricultural workers - PF, ESI, Minimum wages etc., including payment to the workers. We are providing such services to DuPont group (Pioneer) and TATA group (Metahelix & Dhaanya) for more than 10 years in Karnataka, AP, Telengana and some places in Gujarat and Maharastra.
N Nataraajhan, Sakthi Management Services (HP : + 91 94835 17402 ; e-mail : )

Dear Mr Sugitha
We will be in Chennai on 15th and 16th. In case if possible, we can meet @ Chennai or we can meet in our Office @ Hosur (TN) on prior appointment. Pl confirm your convenience asap.
N Nataraajhan, Sakthi Management Services (HP : + 91 94835 17402 ; e-mail : )

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