BJP government suspends labour laws, pushes the labourers towards modern-day slavery

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As the migrant crisis worsens and the labourers walking home are found dead on railway tracks and highways, the BJP government in UP is working to make life even more difficult for the working class. Yogi Adityanath government issued an ordinance exempting existing and new industries from over 30 labour laws for the next three years in order to promote industrial activities after incurring huge revenue loss due to the Coronavirus lockdown. This decision has been criticised by the opposition parties and labour union.

According to the state government led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, this suspension of labour laws will help bring new investors to the state and help existing industries to function smoothly during the pandemic.

As per Labour Minister Swami Prasad Maurya, only three labour laws will be applicable in the state during this period including the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996, Workmen Compensation Act, 1923, and the Bonded Labour Act, 1976. Section 5 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 will also apply in the state during this period.

In total, there are 38 laws regulating the labour sector of which 35 have been suspended for three years.

This suspension of labour laws will give untapped power to the employers to hire and fire at will while the labourers would have no choice but to comply. The minimum wages will also be decided by the employer and not the government which will lead to exploitation of poor workers. This move by Yogi government seems to be in stark contrast to the Centre where Finance Minister said the Centre was planning to remove the inter-state disparity in minimum wages.

“We want to make minimum wages universal. There is a regional disparity in minimum wages. We are trying to get over the problem by having a national floor-wage concept that can be accepted by all the states,” she said.

This is in direct contradiction to the Uttar Pradesh government suspending all provisions related to minimum wages.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accused the Yogi Adityanath government of crushing the rights of labourers. Slamming the state government over the suspension of key labour laws, Priyanka Gandhi said the labourers were not its hostages.

“You are not ready to help the labourers. You are not giving any protective cover to their families. Now you are making laws to crush their rights. The labourers are the country makers, not your hostages.”, she demanded to repeal these changes in labour laws.

Congress party spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil said, “BJP-ruled states amending labour laws to lure foreign investors; it highlights the true nature of suit-boot ki sarkar”. He also appealed to the Central government to deny permission to states amending labour laws “to strip workers of their basic rights”.

Three BJP-ruled states: Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have suspended some major labour laws, allowing businesses to hire and fire at will, among other ‘benefits’. If the Prime Minister has a little concern for workers and labourers, then he should himself tell these states to not go ahead with amending labour laws and not allow them in doing so. We would expect the Prime Minister to intervene today itself.

The suspension of labour laws is so hideous that not only Congress but RSS also criticized the move. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the labour wing of the RSS, has opposed the changes in the labour laws announced by the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh governments.

The BMS said these changes to the labour laws are violation of the international labour law conventions and it will create a situation where there is no rule of law. The BMS President also said that it will be a bigger pandemic than coronavirus. The BMS will hold an emergency meeting and protest against these moves.

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