The hard-earned labour laws that were made during the British rule were rendered dysfunctional during the “rule” of neoliberal economic policy in the last 22 years, said the national president of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions , A.K. Padmanaban.

Addressing a meeting organised to mark the birth centenary of CITU founder and former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu here on Tuesday, he said the birth centenary was not for mere celebration but for reminding the working class of their duties in nation building.

The working class under the British rule fought for two causes – to establish labour rights and to attain independence – and they won on both counts.

However, the same people who were fighting for the cause of the labourers started acting against them after they became part of the government, he said.

“Ever since the new economic policies were introduced, the labour laws have taken a beating. Right to form association is denied in multi-national companies. Even in places where labour associations are present, they are not recognised by the government,” Mr.Padmanaban pointed out.

The new economic policies had hit the common man in all spheres. The government, which used to be called “welfare government”, suddenly started giving up its role in providing protected water, education, health, road and other facilities. It had taken the role of a facilitator in paving the way for investments by the capitalists.

Not only the Congress , but also various State governments run by regional parties supported the liberalised economic policies as if there were no alternative to them.

“It was only in West Bengal that all struggles against the new economic policies got a tremendous support. It was because the Left party governments there recognised that the labour laws were hard-earned,” he said.

The party leaders, B. Vikraman, R. Karumalayan, R. Deivaraj, Palaniammal and V. Pitchai were among those who spoke.

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