For the first time, Railways will have a database of workers engaged by contractors in non-operational areas such as housekeeping, cleaning, consultancy, training and other such services, thus keeping an eye out for any violation of labour rights. Under a new general Conditions of Contract (GCC) for services, drafted by a committee of executive directors and approved by the railway board, a copy of which is with PTI, Railways has decided to separate the terms and conditions for contractors engaged in railway works like construction of bridges, buildings, gauge conversion projects, from those pertaining to service delivery. The new policy has introduced, for the first time, a digital contract labour management system which will be a database of all contractual workers engaged in providing services to the railways. “This system shall be put in place by the contractor or by Indian Railways, as decided by the railways as per the special conditions of contract. Use of this system will be mandatory in labour intensive service contracts that is in housekeeping…,” the GCC said.
The computerised system will have a database of all workers with their personal details, police verification, medical insurance, provident fund registration, identification certificate issued by the government of India, attendance data, shift log and the details of safety and labour law training and salary details. It will also generate identity cards for them complete with work site details, blood group, photograph and a colour-based band, based on category of labour. The workers biometrics will also be uploaded on the system.
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In fact, during a briefing on budget day, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal had remarked that he will soon introduce a system which will make contractors divulge details of their employees and ensure a more transparent system. “There have been complaints… I am bringing a system by which I want all contractors to make the data of their employees public. This way we will know if they are being paid minimum wages, the employees provident fund (EPF)…”, Goyal said. According to the contract, to ensure compliance of labour laws in a service contract, a contractor bidding for a project will be disqualified if they have been levied with penalty for violation of labour laws three times in the last two years from the date of opening of tender.
Indian Railways, the GCC stated may also undertake measures, as decided by competent authority to ensure welfare of contract workers – through a helpline for complaints from about regarding payment of wages, work site facilities, sexual harassment, or through a provision for recording anonymous complaints from workers, citizens and others regarding violation of labour laws by contractor. The policy has also stated that all contractors were legally obligated to follow the usual labour laws like payment of minimum wages, provident fund and others, but also the Maternity Benefit Act as well as the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act just like the organised sector.
The ministry said that the new policy was required as the present contract for works, primarily for those working in the operational areas “failed to bridge the fundamental differences in the nature of works and services delivery”. This policy follows a recent directive from the Railway Board issued on January 24 which said that any railway contractor found violating labour laws would face charges under the law, but may find himself being blacklisted by the national transporter.