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RESPONSBILE RECRUITMENT: A POST COVID-19 AGENDA ACROSS SUPPLY CHAINS
29 October 2020 | 11:45 – 13:15 IST
In March 2020, India experienced the largest domestic exodus of migrant workers, following the announcement of the national lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus. The lockdown certainly protected millions from the illness, but it also left millions of migrant workers stranded at their worksites, relief camps with little or no food and with no public transportation to help them get home. Across cities and states, workers were seen travelling on bicycles and on foot for hundreds to thousands of kilometers to reach their homes.
On the eve of 24 March 2020, soon after the announcement of the lockdown in India, thousands of migrant workers, desperately tried to get on the last train, bus, car back home. Vulnerability was and continues to be at an all-time high, with workers being denied wages, evicted from their homes due to nonpayment of rent. People were more exposed to exploitation and starvation, with the priority being shifted to protecting the country from the spread of COVID-19. In response to the migrant crisis, we have witnessed the Central and State government implement various measures to help the migrant workers. Corporates and individuals have come forward to support in ways of providing relief or livelihood.
For the daily wage workers who had no social security or government IDs or a written job contract, accessing relief measures, schemes and cash transfers set-up by the central government were met with more hurdles. As per the Periodic Labour Force Survey (July 2017-June 2018), published by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation – 71.1% of the regular wage/salaried working in the non-agricultural (informal sector) had no written job contract ; making them more vulnerable and susceptible to different forms of exploitation and illegal confinements The role of state governments, NGOs and corporates working in partnership, bridged the gap between the central government relief measures and the migrant workers. Their endeavor to get the migrant workers home, have assisted in responding to issues of access to benefits and facilitated in securing them with their family and community.
With the pandemic taking over lives, human trafficking continues to be the greatest concern given the demand shock for criminal forms of exploitation in the country. Over the years, the nature and forms of human trafficking have been constantly changing. Today, human trafficking covers a broad range of offences including, forced labour, domestic servitude, forced prostitution, forced marriages, among many others. It exposes and exploits vulnerable groups, especially women and children, who make up 92% of the victims of human trafficking.
Human Trafficking has also grown to be a material subject of concern in global supply chains relying on complex subcontracting models with multiple and diffused players in the far and invisible tiers of the unorganized sector. According to National estimates, the effects of the crime are seen across the country, with over 70% of the victims of trafficking being rescued from within the country. The inter- state nature of this crime demands increased coordination and collaborative efforts across multiple stakeholders. Over the years, forced labour has remained one of the largest forms of trafficking in the country.
COVID-19 in India has particularly drawn attention to the potential rise of child trafficking1 for child labour and of bonded labour in private establishments with recent concerns raised by Supreme Court and several High Courts, with some states requiring industry compliance to the much- forgotten legislation of the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act. With many businesses taking a leap forward in a post-lockdown scenario amidst rising vulnerabilities of the weaker sections to labour- trafficking through deception, fraud or coercion by predatory recruiters (often traffickers), the materiality of the issue and the needed emphasis on ‘Responsible Recruitment’ is of vital import to industry as an opportunity for knowledge sharing on best practices, strategies and potential areas of collaborations envisaged for the near future.
- Increase awareness on safeguards and safe passage given migrant workers vulnerability to deception and coercion and the role of middlemen and recruiters in labour
- Facilitate coordination and convergence in addressing human trafficking between government agencies and businesses in the protection of workers
- Sharing of good practices in sustainably addressing, recruitment, transportation, transfer and receiving of labourers
- Collate recommendations for policy engagement and business guide on responsible recruitment from stakeholders, to further equip and empower actors addressing human trafficking in supply chains
DR. TINA KURIAKOSE JACOB
Head, Central Government Partnerships
International Justice Mission (IJM)
Mr. Ranjeeb Sarma
Head of Compliance, CSR and Plan A India and Sri Lanka Region
Marks and Spencer
Mr. Neil Giles
Traffik Analysis Hub
Ms. Nadia Bunce
Manager, Social Sustainability
The Consumer Goods Forum