BJP-ruled States yet to share details on changes to labour laws

Trade union activists stage a protest against labour laws in Patna. File   | Photo Credit: Ranjeet Kumar

More than a month after the Parliamentary Committee on Labour wrote to eight State governments seeking explanation on the changes brought to the labour laws during the extended lockdown, three BJP-ruled States — Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh — have not responded, despite two reminders from the Committee.

The three States have effected the most significant changes, suspending the majority of the labour laws for a period up to three years.

Also read: Are India’s labour laws too restrictive?

The Committee had sought details of the amendments made by them and also the instruments (executive order or ordinance) used to effect the change. A total of 13 State governments had diluted the labour laws in May, with eight of them raising the daily working hours from eight to 12 hours.

When asked if this amounted to undermining the Parliamentary Standing Committee, Labour Committee Chairperson and Biju Janata Dal MP Bhartruhari Mahtab said, “I can only say that their reply is awaited.”

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Sources said the State governments concerned have been tardy in responding, with only sending in its response within a week. The Rajasthan government replied only a few days back. Among other changes, it has amended the Industrial Disputes Act to increase the threshold of companies coming under the law from those employing 100 workers to those having 300 workers.

Meetings cancelled

Further, the meeting of the Committee had to be cancelled twice after the officials at the Union Labour Ministry tested positive. It was first scheduled for June 5 and then re-scheduled for June 17. But now it has been deferred and may be held on June 26.

“More than 50% of the members are willing to attend the meeting in Parliament since we haven’t heard from the Speaker’s office to hold committee meetings via video conferencing. Whenever we hold the meeting, this subject will be taken up,” Mr. Mahtab said.

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Provisions suspended

Explaining the changes made by U.P., M.P. and Gujarat governments, General Secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Tapan Sen said the amendments made by the three States push 80% of the workforce out of coverage of labour laws.

“In these three States, barring the child labour laws and laws related to women working the night shift, most other laws have been suspended in the name of reform. The custodians of the law themselves want to throw the workers at the mercy of the employer,” Mr Sen said. He added that under the changes, employers can hire and fire at will without paying necessary compensations.

Following the amendments to the labour laws, 10 central trade unions had filed a complaint to the International Labour Organisation, which has sought a reply from India on the issue.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2021 3:55:27 AM |

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