BJP Ruled States Announce Anti-labour Policies to Lure Industries

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15 May, 20 02:46
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BJP Ruled States Announce  Anti-labour Policies to Lure Industries

Corona pandemic has for the first time exposed the Indian parliamentary democratic system’s inherent apathy to the working class so openly. Millions of labour have been abandoned by their employers and also by the respective state governments in the wake of the pandemic to fend for themselves and if they fail to survive in their work place then go to their native villages on their own without any help from the state or the industry which employed them and earned millions in the past years. It has been proved once again that the capitalist economic system is a heartless machine which cares for its profits and nothing else.  The Union Government has done nothing to coordinate between different states to facilitate the stay/movement of the workers.  More than two million workers have registered in the state of Gujarat to go back to their states. Similar is the case in other states. In Karnataka the state government managed to get three trains cancelled which were to carry workers to their native states under the pressure of building lobby because once they left the industry will not get labour. To make matters the BJP ruled states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have announced anti- labour policies in order to lure the companies pulling out of China to set up their industries in their states. 

New Anti-labour Provisions

 The state government of Gujarat has  provided in the new laws that new industrial establishments shall be  exempted from all labour laws barring the following  Minimum Wages Act,  Industrial Safety Rules, Employees' Compensation Act, Ordinance to roll out benefits that will be available for 1,200 days.

The state government has also provided that the industries which decide to operate in the state will get hundred percent approvals online within a period of fifteen days. The government of Gujarat has set aside 33000Hectares of land for the industries that would be coming. The provisions so made will have dangerous repercussions on the condition of the workers in the state. These provisions will provide the employers a free hand to hire and fire workers. There will be no labour inspection or government intervention and no role of unions. The Madhya Pradesh Government has also made similar provisions which make the life of workers insecure and difficult. It provides that establishments with up to 100 workers can hire according to needs and that there is no need of registration for contractors with 50 labourers. It further provides that there shall be no factory inspection for 3 months and worse still no inspection will be required for a firm with less than fifty workers. It also provides for third party inspection which means  that the owner can get an inspection done or a report prepared by other agencies than the state. The government of Uttar Pradesh has also made provisions including the increase in shift hours from 8 to 12.The industry has been exempted from all labour laws except some  

like  Building and Other Construction Workers' Act, 1996,  Workmen Compensation Act, 1923,  Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 and a  section of Payment of Wages Act. The Uttar Pradesh has approved an Ordinance exempting businesses from the purview of almost all the labour laws for the next three years.

Scratching 46 Labour Laws to be Replaced by Four Codes

In fact the BJP led NDA government had started making shifts much earlier in its first tenure between 2014 and 2019. The NDA government had decided to scrap 46 labour related laws to be replaced by four codes and in  2019 itself the Code on Wages was approved. In January 2020 the cabinet had given a nod to certain reforms which would make retrenchment of workers easier. According to the new regulations termination of service of a worker at the completion of tenure of fixed-term employment will not be considered retrenchment. At the same time, even though the government has retained the clause that firms with more than 100 employees will need permission from the appropriate government for closure, retrenchment and layoffs, it has provided the flexibility to state governments to reduce or increase this threshold. This will protect state governments like Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Assam and Uttarakhand that had increased this threshold to 300 workers, government sources said. The bill also proposes a more stringent threshold for a trade union to be considered as a sole negotiating union. A union will be recognised as the sole negotiating union only if it has the support of 75 per cent or more of the workers on the muster roll in an establishment. The earlier version bill required that 66 per cent of the workers should support the union. 

Lockdown Experience: An Eye- opener

The experience of lock down one to three has shown that the governments are not concerned about the life of the labour whether they are voters of one party or the other. They are dispensable for them. The concern of the governments is to boost the industry, get more and more foreign investment and increase the GDP. Workers have been reduced to the state of beggars in just fifty seven days. They have been insulted, beaten by police, harassed by their employers, abandoned by the landlords of the rented shanties where they lived, made to starve and die on the roads and railway tracks and made to think whether they are the citizens of this country or not. Some state governments took initiative to bring back labour from their state but such actions were too late and too small in measure. 

Unity of Working Class : The Only Way Out

The working class which means employees of all cadres, peasants, small shopkeepers, government employees , MNREGA labour, teachers, nurses, doctors , engineers, policemen and practically every individual who earns his/her livelihood by hard work should understand the challenges lying ahead. This capitalist economy will not safeguard their interest unless they are united strongly in solid organizations and have their say in the parliaments and assemblies. Life is going to be tough and hardships are likely to increase. Outside political parties, working class must unite as a class and learn to fight as a class for their interests. Otherwise this system will only extract profits out of their labour and throw them all after using them.Fixed-term employment to be new category

The bill proposes to include mass casual leave in the definition of ‘strike’ and stipulates that a 14-day notice will have to be given before a strike or lockout. The bill, which received a cabinet nod last week, proposes to include fixed-term employment as a new category. The bill proposes that the fixed term employee will get all statutory benefits like social security, wages, etc. at par with the regular employees who are doing work of the same or similar nature. 

The new code will reduce the compensation to retrenched workers to 15 days of average pay for every year of completed service as against 45 days of average pay for every year of completed service proposed in the earlier version of the bill.

In addition, it also introduces the flexibility to allow the central government or the state governments to fix the number of days for which the average pay will be provided as compensation.

The bill proposes to combine the three relevant acts — The Trade Unions Act, 1926, The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 and the The Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 — as the government looks to bring in labour reforms to improve the ease of doing business in India. The bill, after being tabled in the Lok Sabha, is likely to be referred to the standing committee for further discussions. 

Parliament has already passed the code on wages earlier this year. The other codes that are in various stages of drafting and approval include the code on social security that is in the drafting stages and the code on occupational safety, health and working conditions code 2019 that is with the standing committee of Parliament after being introduced in the Lok Sabha in July this year.

- Dr.H.S.Chandalia

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