The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has once more shed crocodile tears at the loss of lives of 16 workers in the Aurangabad rail tragedy. What Mr. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) do not understand is the cause for this incident – what is it that is pushing this country’s working people to walk hundreds of kilometres by day and make the railway tracks their beds by night? The government Mr. Modi leads and the party he belongs to do not recognise that the unplanned and poorly planned lockdown owing to the coronavirus has led to the destitution and despair of the working class in the hundreds of millions. To grind the already destitute and desperate working people to the ground and rob them off their dignity, BJP led state governments have decided to completely jettison labour laws and labour rights.
For the BJP and its governments, workers are a mere factor of production, not human beings with feeling, emotions and needs and certainly not deserving of rights. Hence since the lockdown has caused the greatest economic crisis yet: for the BJP and its governments working people must be placed, with fewer right they already have and at lower wages, working longer hours with no protection of tenure and of course with no trade union rights, at the disposal of capital.
States Compete: Who is more Exploitative?
This is what the BJP state governments in Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh are setting out to do. The BJP Government of Gujarat is seeking to give any new investor in Gujarat a holiday that makes an investment that last at least 1200 days of all labour legislation with the exception of the Minimum Wages Act and the Workmen’s Compensation Act. The BJP Government of Himachal Pradesh has issued an executive order allowing shifts of 12 hours’ work a day or 72 hours of work a week with no provision of overtime. The less than two month old BJP Government of Madhya Pradesh has already gazetted amendments to relieve employers of the responsibility of virtually all provisions of the Factories Act from provisions of water and toilets to basic health and safety while also barring the raising of complaints and disputes under the Industrial Disputes Act save for on the question of closure for establishments with more than 300 employees all for a period of 1200 days.
The BJP Government of Uttar Pradesh of course has promised the most: to completely suspend all labour laws with the exception of the Workmen’s Compensation Act, the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, clause 5 of the Payment of Wages Act (time of wage payment) and possibly the Maternity Benefit Act and the Child labour Act with no time limit.
The request for the approval of all these amendments by the states, since they involve laws passed by the country’s parliament, are now before the President of India. The proposition of changing critical laws upholding the fundamental right to live of working people and their families in a hurry at a time when the parliament and the state legislative assemblies are not in session is indicative of the intent of the BJP government. These amendments apart from being violative of fundamental rights provided under the country’s constitution, these violate the core labour standards on the right against forced labour, the right to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. Now it is also a matter of how non-BJP/NDA parties stand up or not?
These acts of the BJP state governments are neither random nor individual acts of state governments. These are in the spirit of the labour law ‘reform’ that capital has been demanding and has been placed before parliament in the form of the 4 labour code bills of which the Wage Code has already been passed. It is important to note that the BJP government at the centre has been regularly writing letters to non-BJP state governments admonishing them for not carrying out ‘labour reforms on a priority basis’ and demanding that the state governments send the union government weekly reports on the steps they are taking including on fixed term employment and a 12 hour working day.
Pandemic: An Opportunity for Capital to Crush Rights
For the BJP and its governments the pandemic and its fallout is just the time to take it all out on the working class, to deny working people the slightest shred of democratic or economic rights. And this is so because, for the BJP, the only driver of growth and expansion in the economy can be capital. Hence every factor of production must be placed without constraints at the disposal of capital. The myopic BJP government even fails to understand that it is not just the sweat and toil of working people that keeps the economy moving – they are also required to expand consumption in the economy, through higher wages and better rights, to ensure the growth of the economy.
As we call upon the President to reject these applications for amendment, the resistance against these amendments will strengthen our fight against the ruling class.
Vijay Kumar Sudipta Pal B. Pradeep
President Advisor General Secretary
AIFTU (New) ECLTSAU IFTU
Thangaraj Gautam Mody Sanjay Singhvi
General Secretary General Secretary General Secretary
NDLF NTUI TUCI
Contact: B. Pradeep 9866466457 / Gautam Mody 7838383758 / Sanjay Singhvi 9869047758