Heeding the 24x7 potential

Removing regulatory barriers to employ more people in various areas of economic activity is a national priority, and the Centre’s Model Shops and Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Bill, 2016 to enable operation of such services >all 365 days of the year, and round-the-clock , is a significant step forward. As the Economic Survey for 2015-16 notes, there is a robust annual growth in services such as trade, hotels, transport and communications. Creating a healthy environment for the growth of consumer-focussed services will catalyse it further. >The model law , which is available to the States to either adopt fully or in a modified form, is to be welcomed for specifying labour issues such as working hours, overtime, casual and earned leave, protection for women including transport access for those opting to work night shifts, and workplace facilities. It is all too evident that in the existing regulatory regime, many of these aspects are impressively inked on paper, but with poor outcomes in practice. Workers are left without effective mechanisms of redress. In the model law, protections are to be enforced by a cadre of Chief Facilitators and Facilitators. This is a moment to strike a blow for the rights of workers, and State governments must show as much concern for labour welfare as the facilitation of business. The Labour Ministry can achieve this by welcoming online registration of complaints, and the process can be aided by trade unions.

There is much to welcome in the model law; its major innovation is the elimination of the licensing bureaucracy, and therefore a lot of corruption. A simplified, online common registration procedure for the businesses covered by the Act should definitely be part of State law; this would be a big leap in ease of doing business. State governments looking to accelerate economic activity and generate higher revenues should adopt the law immediately. Two areas that need urgent reform in all States are provision of reliable public transport and strong law enforcement. Even in big cities with organised bus, rail and feeder networks, these systems are not reliable at night. The new sharing economy has been filling the gap with app-based commercial taxi services operating 24x7, but a decision to promote retail services round-the-clock requires a good, affordable public transport backbone with security arrangements to ensure safe travel. One other aspect of reform to support employees of shops and establishments is health care. It should be mandatory for employers to cover their medical expenses through standalone or group insurance policies, since private health insurance is generally unaffordable to such workers.

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Printable version | Aug 11, 2020 12:21:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/Heeding-the-24x7-potential/article14465795.ece

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