As a Trade Union worker I am very closely watching the way in which the present Government is dealing with labour and farmer issues. There is a total mismanagement and disconnection.Mismanagement is generally defined as a significant failure to fulfil a duty to direct and control an organisation or Government.
Disconnection is defined as not being aware of the information required to do your job. For example politicians who doesn’t know basic facts regarding a problem they are supposed to solve. This is what is exactly happening in the present Government. The farmers struggle as entered the 20 th day today. On Monday thousands of farmers observed a day long fast and the protest is
continuing throughout the country. However there is no meeting ground as on date to resolve the dispute on the New Farm Sector Laws. The united struggle of the farmers have forced the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to make a statement that “There is no question of taking retrograde steps against our agriculture sector ever”. The recent reforms have been undertaken with the best interest of India’s farmers in mind.
Support for the farmers agitation is swelling . More than 20 farmers have died so far during the course of the agitation. The agitation according to AIKSCC is transforming into a National patriotic movement to save farmers from exploitation from Corporate houses. Thousands of farmers have started moving towards Delhi from all over the Country. The Jaipur – Delhi National Highway has been completely blocked by the protesting farmers.
Reports says that many ex- servicemen, youth, singers, artists and writers and many public personalities are joining hands with the protesting farmers and they all in one voice appeals to the Government to repeal the agricultural laws and to start discussions with the farmers.
Same is the situation with regard to the pro Corporate Labour Law reforms taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, many state Governments have started either diluting or suspending the Labour Laws. Many state Governments started increasing the working hours from 8 to 12 hrs. The Labour Acts are replaced as Labour Codes. The Central Trade Unions and Federations have
already objected the manner in which the Labour Codes were passed in the Parliament without any discussions either in the Parliament or with the Trade Unions. The New Codes have restricted the workers right to form Unions and to have collective bargaining with the Employer.
After the intervention of ILO the increase in working hours has been withdrawn. The 44 existing Labour Laws has been codified into 4 Labour Codes, The Code of Wages , The Social Security Code, Industrial Relation Code and The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Condition Code. These Codes diluted and repealed various long standing legal provisions that ensured various rights and social security to the workers. Many Industrial Establishments like ISRO, DRDO and DAE are exempted from the “scope of Industry”. The enforcement mechanism has become toothless. No useful discussions and consultations with workers have taken place on the above labour related issues and this is a clear violation of the ILO’s Convention 144. This Convention which was ratified by the Indian Parliament mandates a tripartite consultation process involving Government, employers and workers. However, all these are violated by the present Government.
Under the shelter of COVID-19 pandemic, decisions which are against the interest of the workers and self-reliant economy is taken by the Government. Government sectors like Railways, Defence Units like Ordnance Factories, Army Base Workshops, DRDO Labs are either being Corporatized or in the process of total privatisation. Almost all the public sector establishments are facing the threat of privatisation. Public Sector Banks , Insurance, LIC, BPCL, Shipping Corporation, BHEL etc., are being ruthlessly attacked. ILO have estimated that four hundred million workers in the informal economy in India were at risk of falling deeper into poverty.
Permanency in jobs, Reservation in Jobs will become a matter of yesterday. More and more contractual and informal work is going to be increased. It was farmers who are committing suicide,
however now it has become the turn of workers and various professionals . Daily reports are coming in the media about suicides of workers and professionals, since they are over burdened with the Loans which they have taken. While the Crony capitalists who have taken heavy loans from Public Sector Banks are enjoying in India and Foreign Countries, the poor people are
subjected to harassment and humiliation.
Nowadays, lots of discussions are going on in the Country about democracy and Parliamentary function of our Country. The demand of the farmers for repeal of the laws passed by the Indian Parliament is a clear example of mismanagement of the Legislative work in the Parliament. In a democracy the Parliament represents the people and it is a supreme law making body. The Parliament itself has got a large number of committees to scrutinise the draft bills which are brought before the Parliament by the Government. In the case of controversial bills the Members used to demand for referring the matter to the committees and the speaker or the Chairman, generally refers the Bill for scrutiny of the concerned Standing Committees. The Committees used to hold consultations with the stake holders, experts in the field and take efforts to shape the structure of the draft Bill placed by the Government.
In the past in majority of the cases where the Bills placed by the Ruling Party which have got far reaching implications, in such cases such important draft Bills are always sent to the Parliamentary Committees for further study and refining the same. Unfortunately it has not taken place either in the case of Labour Codes or the Farm Bills passed by the Parliament. This is a clear evidence of mismanagement and disconnect of the present Government. Issues such as Corporatisation of Ordnance Factories, Railways, Privatisation of Public Sectors etc., were also raised by many opposition MPs in the Parliament.
Unfortunately no Cognizance was given by the Government on all these issues concerning the Nation and the People are not given any importance. It is unfortunate that ILO Conventions are being violated, Parliamentary discussions are not being taken seriously. Informal and formal consultations between the Government and the Opposition Parties for arriving at consensus on controversial issues, discussions with the Trade Unions for reaching an understanding on labour issues etc., are now only in the History Books. If these systems prevailing in an established democracy like ours becomes non functional and non operative will only result in people losing Confidence in our Democratic and Parliamentary system and ruin the entire system of consultation process.
Views expressed here are those of C. Srikumar. General Secretary of All India Defence Employees Federation