“The design {of the tableau} is a celebration of workers’ well- being and security,’’ minister for labour and employment Santosh Gangwar said.
“The design {of the tableau} is a celebration of workers’ well- being and security,’’ minister for labour and employment Santosh Gangwar said.

Republic Day tableau to honour Indian worker

The theme of the tableau, which features workers in hard hats and safety gear, is encapsulated in the slogan: “Mehnat ko samman, Adhikar ek samaan’’ (Respect for hard work, Equal rights for all).
By Sunetra Choudhury
UPDATED ON JAN 24, 2021 08:18 AM IST

The Rafale fighter jets won’t be the only stars of the Republic Day parade this year. The humble Indian worker, who bore the brunt of the pandemic last year, will be part of the show, too, in the labour ministry’s first tableau at the parade, both in a salute to his resilience and a bit of political messaging.


The ministry is still wrapping up some of the initiatives it introduced in 2020 for the benefit of migrant workers, millions of whom fled the cities and headed back home to the countryside in an exodus that followed the lockdown enforced on March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19)

The theme of the tableau, which features workers in hard hats and safety gear, is encapsulated in the slogan: “Mehnat ko samman, Adhikar ek samaan’’ (Respect for hard work, Equal rights for all).

Also Read | No chief guest this Republic Day

A spokesperson for the labour ministry pointed out that the occasion precedes the imminent implementation of the new labour codes, which aim to bring the unorganised section of the workforce under the social security net. The government this week held its final round of consultations with stakeholders to sew up the rules for the code.

“The design {of the tableau} is a celebration of workers’ well- being and security,’’ minister for labour and employment Santosh Gangwar said.

The three labour code bills — the Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, 2020; the Industrial Relations Code, 2020; and the Code on Social Security, 2020 — merged 24 central labour laws and were passed by Parliament in September as part of National Democratic Alliance government’s reform agenda. The Code on Social Security, 2020 promised universal social security for the first time, for both organised and informal workers as well as gig and platform workers.

Labour unions haven’t been enthusiastic about the new labour codes. Tapan Sen, a leader of the Centre for Trade Unions, said labour groups had met the minister on January 20 and rejected the changes, calling them exploitative because they allowed hiring and firing of workers by management teams.

“ We want this to be scrapped and fresh discussions to be initiated. This R-day initiative is just to hide the governmenr’s misdeeds,’’ said Sen.

The tableau will also have gig workers, platform workers and artistes performing as delivery agents and cargo carriers.

Also Read | Ayodhya, upcoming Ram Temple in Uttar Pradesh’s tableau for Republic Day

“With the tableau, we want to showcase how the new labour code will give a new direction to the lives of labourers,’’ said Gangwar. The front of the tableau will have a “confident and empowered worker holding a tool and leading the way. A yellow safety cap suggests social security, wage security and health security under labour reforms.’’

Anindita Adhikari, who works with the Stranded Workers Action Network that has done several studies on the impact the lockdown had on the informal workforce, said the government was “valourising the workers after crushing them’’ — a reference to the impact of the lockdown that cost hundreds of thousands of jobs.

She also mocked the image of the tableau. “Which worker looks like this? Certainly not the informal workers who make up the bulk of the workers in the country,’’ Adhikari said.

A labour ministry spokesperson responded by saying the government had set up 24x7 helplines, helped release wages and cleared emergency provident fund withdrawals in record time. According to the government’s own report, prepared by a group of ministers, 95 million urban workers felt the impact of the pandemic and the lockdown.

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