There are hundreds of workers from Tamil Nadu stranded in Gulf countries due to the lockdown adding to the thousands of workers stranded prior to that because of being deceived by travel agents and lack of passports. The consequence is forced labor, slavery, sex trafficking and death. Hence, a PIL under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution was filed by President of Gulf Telangana Welfare and Cultural Association- Pathkuri Basanth Reddy. The PIL is seeking rescue of such workers and pleading to bring back the corpses to the families of the victims. The condition of the workers is in clear violation of basic human rights under UDHR and Article 21 of the Indian Constitution since right to live with dignity and decent burial are both facets of right to life. Thus, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Central and State Government along with the Central Bureau Investigation to respond to the same.
This situation is largely because of the fact that India as well as the Gulf Countries have not ratified important conventions like Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention, 1948 and Right to organize and Collective bargaining Convention, 1949. Further, these countries are failing to adhere to ILO’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. These conventions and declarations give the workers various rights, namely the right to freedom of association, collective bargaining and all forms of elimination of forced or compulsory labor. Consequently, the migrant workers are unable to form unions or oppose any unfair labor practices.
The pandemic has exacerbated their situation as they remain most susceptible to health risks. Closely situated houses and unhealthy living conditions make the necessity of social distancing impossible to achieve. Limited access to preventive medical care, lack of awareness and legal protection adds to their miseries. Thus, the plea urges courts to set out immediate directions, problem redressal forums, and provide legal aid and assistance to the victims. It further urges the embassies in the two regions to collectively strive for the welfare of the workmen stranded in their territories.