THE INTERACTIVE session of State Labour Department and industrialists to discuss the draft for formulating new labour policy started on a sour note today with the industrialists objecting to the fact that they were not given a copy of the draft well in advance. They were also unhappy at not being included in the committee that prepared the draft.
The State Government had appointed a committee comprising representatives of labour unions and headed by MP Labour Welfare Board Chairman Sunder Singh Shakravar for the welfare of labourers in December 2004. The committee gave suggestions for welfare of workers in organised and unorganised sectors, insurance services, setting up of a training academy, labour court, Contract Labour Act and strengthening of labour department.
State Labour Department had today organised an interactive session to discuss the draft of labour policy, which incorporates the committee’s suggestions. State Labour Minister Jagdish Devda, Principal Secretary (Labour) Rakesh Bansal, Labour Commissioner Rajneesh Vaish and representatives of industries and committee members took part in the session.
Labour Minister Jagdish Devda, in a damage control exercise, announced midway through the session that the committee members would tour different districts and interact with industry representatives to take into account their suggestions and objections.
Earlier, welcoming the guests, Additional Labour Commissioner L K Pandey said that with rapid globalisation and modernisation the need to form a new labour policy in the State was felt. He said that there was an urgent need to implement labour laws, especially in the unorganised sector.
Devda said that the labour policy had been amended from time to time in the State. New labour policies were announced in 1969, 1970, and 1981. “This time we have ensured that senior labour leaders have themselves drafted the proposed policy. In the past, the labour policies focussed on the textile sector, but now, with changing times new industries have also been included.”
Devda said, “We want an extensive discussion between the industrialists and other parties concerned before finalising the new labour policy.’’ He said the Labour Department would pay special attention to implementation of labour laws in sectors like bidi manufacturing, construction, contract labour, etc. Special efforts would also be made to stop child labour.
Shakravar said that industrial development should not take place at the cost of labourers. He said that the labour laws should be formulated in such a manner that there is no scope for exploitation of labourers, especially in the unorganised sector.
“I think to give the labour laws a more humane face, former Chief Minister Babulal Gaur had taken this bold decision of asking the representatives of labour community to prepare the draft of labour policy.”
Shakravar, who headed the committee that prepared the draft, said that in organised sector the labour unions should be encouraged to prevent exploitation of labourers. He strongly opposed the demands from certain sections of industry to exempt them from certain labour laws. “The labour policy,” he said, “should protect labourers, work for their welfare, and focus on the unorganised sector.”
Interestingly, although L K Pandey announced at the beginning of the session that the new labour policy had been endorsed by all the major industries association of the State, the industry representatives sang a different tune altogether.
Pithampur Industries Association President Gautam Kothari said that the new policy should not impede industrial growth. He said that threat of globalisation could not be ignored and pointed out that there was no provision in the policy to increase productivity. Kothari said that labour unions were not a problem, but government should take steps to discourage anti-social elements from becoming self-styled labour leaders.
Industry representative from Dewas, Anil Malik, lamented that the committee had failed to include even a single point out of 25-point suggestion forwarded by the Dewas Industries Association. “I don’t think this policy will help industry in anyway at all. Let us not show undue haste in implementing this policy.” Malik took objection to various sections of the draft and pointed out that some of the sections contradicted each other.
Eicher Ltd Director Rajesh Mittal also voiced concern over the proposed labour policy saying it may discourage fresh investments in the State. “The labour class will inevitably benefit when new industries come to the State.”
Labour Commissioner Rajneesh Vaish, while proposing a vote of thanks, said that it was a false perception that Labour Department was hindering the growth of industry. He made it clear that no industry could be given exemption from the labour laws.