RSS labour wing criticises move to amend labour laws amid Covid-19 outbreak
The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the labour wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has criticised the move by the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Uttar Pradesh (UP) governments to amend their labour laws, alleging that the hurriedly made decisions would strip workers of job security amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak across the country.
In a bid to woo investors to their respective states and make a desperate bid to emerge as an alternative manufacturing hub to China amid the Covid-19 crisis, both MP and UP announced a raft of changes to their labour laws this week.
While MP has allowed longer working hours and a 1,000-day labour law holiday for new investors, UP has also brought in Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020, exempting companies from complying with several labour norms for the next three years.
The BMS, which claims the affiliation of over 6,000 labour unions, said it would urge the Centre to prevail upon the state governments to roll back their ‘labour-unfriendly’ decisions.
“This is the worst time to make amendments to the labour laws. These changes will make the workers more vulnerable to job losses, especially at a time when the country should be joining hands to rebuild their lives and the economy hit by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said CK Saji Narayana, president, BMS.
He said the heart-wrenching reports of stranded migrant labourers across states, who have been forced to sleep on railway tracks and walk back for hundreds of kilometres to their native places due to the nationwide lockdown restrictions, are growing evidence of “workers being treated badly by both their employers and the government”.
The BMS chief demanded a universal safety law for workers. “There is a need to reinforce safety provisions and more so after the Visakhapatnam gas plant tragedy on Thursday. For instance, MP’s amended law has done away with the need of even installing a fire extinguisher if an industrial unit employs less than 50 people,” he said.
Earlier, HT had reported that various state governments are amending labour laws to attract new investments.
In April, the BJP has submitted a report to the Union government, recommending revisiting the labour and land acquisition laws in a bid to woo investors.
A BJP functionary from UP said the state is in talks with several companies, who are considering moving their production base from China to India. He, however, refused to divulge the names of companies with whom talks have been initiated.
“It’s important to pitch India as an investment destination because it guarantees investment, jobs and allows rebuilding the economy,” the functionary said, adding that the workers’ rights and interests would be safeguarded and not “compromised”.
Narayanan, however, disagreed with such claims. He cited that India couldn’t overnight dispense with its laws amid a rush to emerge as an alternative to China as a manufacturing hub.
“This rush to become an investment destination is akin to a viral outbreak. The rule of law is fundamental to a civilised society. We cannot allow jungle raj, and turn the labour sector into a veritable conflict zone,” he warned.
He debunked the BJP’s report to the Centre pitching for labour law reforms on the grounds that they impede investments and escalate costs. “India cannot do away with labour protection norms just because it wants to compete with China,” Narayan said.
Earlier this week, Prof Biswajit Dhar of the Jawahar Lal Nehru University had told HT that changing labour laws amid the pandemic would not solve the government’s problems.
He suggested that the government must focus on moving forward by adopting an employment policy that creates more jobs and better social security for workers.
On Thursday, MP chief minister Shivaraj Singh Chouhan defended the state government’s decision to amend its labour laws. “Industrial reforms were long-awaited. We plan to increase job opportunities for the people by wooing investors to the state. MP is blessed with ample resources such as water, land, forests and skilled youth power. This is the right time to amend the rules as per new requirements and to simplify them to attract industries that are willing to shift from other places,” he said.
Amended labour laws would facilitate the establishment of new industries, create new job opportunities and workers’ interests would also be safeguarded, he added.
In UP, Siddharth Nath Singh, cabinet minister for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME), investment and export promotion, khadi and village industries said on Thursday after holding a meeting with Satoshi Suzuki, ambassador of Japan to India, that the state is geared up to attract and receive Japanese investments moving out of China and made a pointed reference to the new labour reforms.
The Japanese representatives have appreciated the Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020, said a person, who was privy to the discussions in the meeting.
Enter your email to get our daily newsletter in your inbox
- Shah directed that additional central paramilitary forces be deployed in Delhi with immediate effect and individuals and groups behind the Red Fort seize be brought to justice.
- While more than 100,000 people attended the parade during the previous years, with Covid-19 norms in place on Tuesday, the crowd was limited to 25,000.
- The Opposition, including the Congress, alleges that the government rushed the farm laws without proper discussion in Parliament. The Centre, however, says the reforms will lead to new opportunities in agriculture trade.
- The parliament canteen, now run by ITDC will offer as many as 58 items, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, from January 27.
- Union minister for culture and tourism Prahlad Patel said government is addressing the lack of adventure sports equipment in Kargil.
- In contrast to the violence seen in the Capital, farmers held peaceful rallies across the country to protest against the farm laws.
- India put on display its war machines at a time when the country is locked in a tense border stand-off with China.
- The chaos and violence have raised questions about the future of the two-month-long agitation of farm unions.
- Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in a letter sent to her Indian counterpart, conveyed her greetings.
- Tuesday's decision to operate all trains comes a day after a meeting to resume local train services for all passengers was chaired by Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.
- Khattar said that unsavoury events on Tuesday deserved to be condemned in the strongest words.
- Governor RN Ravi said 'politics by gun' has stonewalled efforts to resolve the Naga political issue.