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Who Do The Recently Passed Labour Bills Really Benefit?

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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.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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