The monsoon session of Rajya Sabha has ended, but the problems of the farmers and the labour class will now begin. This session will prove to be fatal, in many ways for the country, and will also be responsible for making the poor poorer. The Modi-led government passed bills in the Rajya Sabha indiscriminately.
The group, in whose name the bill was passed, wasn’t consulted and weren’t told of the adverse effects in the future. Sometimes, it seems like farmers and labourers have no role in our representative democracy, nor any voice. For passing any bill, a margin of votes has been fixed, but the poor, farmers and labourers are crushed.
Three bills related to labour reforms were passed on the last day of the Rajya Sabha’s session, which the government said is in the interest of the workers and labourers. However, it is another matter that this capitalist government, which is thinking of interest and harm, is taking decisions in the interest of the capitalists and in the harm of the poor labourers.
Despite strong opposition in 2019, the Modi government had passed the Code on wages Bill, under which the central government reduced the 44 labour laws to just 4. The minimum wage was kept at Rs 178 per day or Rs 4,628 per month in the Bill, which has been criticised by many. The bill also did not clarify the criteria under which the minimum wage would be fixed. Nearly a year has passed and it doesn’t seem like the workers have benefited from this act. The Opposition has said that only company owners and big corporate houses have benefited from this.
A year after the Wage Code Bills had been introduced, it seems like the Modi government not only started trying to crush the workers but has also been successful.
On September 23, 2020, three bills were passed by the Modi government. According to the Industrial Relations Bill 2020, now a company with less than 300 employees will be able to retrench workers without any approval from the government.
Earlier this provision was only for those companies which have less than 100 employees. Apart from this, according to this bill, workers or labourers cannot go on strike without giving notice 60 days in advance. Protests are called the beauty of democracy, but now the workers have to give notice even before protesting. The bill indirectly restricts the right to strike.
This clearly shows that the bill is “anti-labour” and in favour of company owners.
Under the Occupational Safety, Health and Workplace Status Bill 2020, companies have been given some more exemption. Workers can be hired on a contract basis. According to the bill, the working hours of women workers will be between 6 am to 7 pm. If work is being done after 7 pm, then the company will be responsible for safety.
An employee cannot be made to work more than six days a week and will get double the money for overtime. Broadly, this bill has neither special benefit nor special disadvantage for the working class because presumably overtime money will be given to the labourers on the basis of minimum wages, which is Rs 178 per day.
But if we look at the draft of the bill, then this bill has ignored the unorganized sector. Employees or labourers working in brick kilns, hotels-dhabas, small mines and e-commerce are not mentioned anywhere in this bill. The surprising thing is that the agriculture sector is not even mentioned in this bill.
Under the Social Security Bill 2020, workers working on contract basis will also be paid a gratuity (a kind of bonus amount). Earlier, gratuity was given to the same person who was employed in the company for 5 years. But this bill still does not clearly state what criteria have to be met to get the gratuity.
This provision does not include workers employed in individual residential construction work. The Bill has been applied only to establishments where twenty or more than 20 employees are employed while there are also many small scale industries in the country. Workers employed in small-scale industries are excluded from this provision. In such a situation, the labourers working in small-scale industries, especially women, will not benefit from this bill.
Trade unions were hopeful that the government would bring in bills to provide employment and respite for the migrant labourers and workers, but their hope seems defeated.
Ten trade unions protested at Jantar Mantar in Delhi and demanded the immediate withdrawal of these bills, calling the anti-labour. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the parental wing of the ruling-BJP, has also strongly opposed these bills and said, “Due to this a system like Jungle Raj will be formed.”
This is a trying period for the working class of India. Rather than the Parliament, it would not have been surprising if these bills were passed in the BJP office, at 11 Ashoka Road, New Delhi, as these bills were passed after the opposition parties walked out! No debate on these bills, they were just passed directly.
The Modi government’s arrogant, oppressive policies are being imposed on poor farmers and labourers and are constantly attacking them, and moving towards establishing a capitalist system. Even if they will protest against these bills, the BJP will not back down from beating the workers with sticks, as happened with the farmers of Haryana.