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NGOs Slam Placement Agency Bill

TIMES OF INDIA

NEW DELHI: The Delhi government’s draft bill on placement agencies – aimed at reining in exploitative agents – has created a flutter among NGOs, with activists claiming that it is riddled with loopholes. Meanwhile, the deadline for receiving suggestions and objections to the proposed legislation, which has been put up on the government website, has been set as August 28.

On Wednesday, representatives of around 12 NGOs, including NGO Save the Children, met at Constitution Club and voiced their concerns over the bill’s provisions. The meeting concluded with a consensus that the draft bill is not acceptable. Arguing that the government cannot limit its engagement with civil society by seeking objections and suggestions through mail, the NGOs demanded a thorough review of the bill.

“The bill aims at monitoring placement agencies, but it appears to be an attempt to regulate domestic workers. The provisions require domestic workers to undergo all kinds of enquiries to prove their credentials. Also, terms like domestic labour, trafficking, placement agency and domestic work haven’t been defined and adopted as per ILO’s recommendations,” said the representatives.

Citing many shortcoming in the bill, Sanjay Gupta, director of Childhood Enhancement Through Education & Training (CHETNA), said, “The rights of the domestic worker don’t find a mention in the bill. Whether a worker can file an appeal on being exploited by the employer is not explained. The main issue of prevention of trafficking remains unaddressed,” Gupta said.

NGO Shakti Vahini, which has been working on preventing trafficking of girls from other states, presented another concern. “Just implementing an Act in Delhi will not help as the problem is national. Domestic workers are being brought in from states like West Bengal and Jharkhand. Hence, it’s important to put in place a national plan of action for placement agencies to ensure coordination between states,” said Rishikant, who represented the NGO.

Social activist Subhash Bhatnagar felt that the government’s focus on regulating agencies is misplaced. “Monitoring employers who engage domestic workers is critical. It should be mandatory for them to register with the state. Most agents who bring girls to the city promising employment are individuals of an exploitative nature who don’t want to get themselves registered. Limiting the new law to placement agencies will not change much as far as stopping exploitation of domestic workers is concerned,” Bhatnagar said.

The Draft Delhi Private Placement Agencies (regulation) Bill 2012 underlines that no agency shall employ, engage or deploy anyone under the age of 18 as a domestic help. Violation of the bill’s provisions can fetch a jail term up to one year and a fine of Rs 20,000. The provisions state that only licensed individuals or private agencies can provide private domestic workers. The licences will be issued for a period of five years by a controlling authority – comprising officers of the level of joint labour commissioner. All existing placement agencies are required to register with the state within three months of the notification of the new law.

The bill mandates a placement agency to display its licence at the office and maintain a register with records of domestic workers and employers. The labour department has been given the power to conduct inspections and crosscheck these documents at will.

The agency has to issue photo IDs to domestic workers and inform the controlling authority about deployment of workers within five days of their getting employed. Each worker will have a bank account and a pass book. Their salary is to be put in the account.

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