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Economy in tatters, labour codes 'take away' workers' safety, benefits, right to form TU

By Our Representative 

The four new labour codes promulgated by the Government of India came in for sharp criticism from several labour unions and civil rights groups at one-day discussion meeting organised in Ranchi (Jharkhand) on the issue of ‘changes in labour laws. Participants in the meeting asserted that under these new codes, many of the benefits and safeties accorded to labourers have been "taken away", while the right of labourers to create trade unions has been attacked.
Jointly organised by the Adivasi Adhikar Manch (AAM), All-India Trade Union Congress (AITUC), Johar Asangathit Majdoor Union, Bagaicha and Kamkaaji Mahila Union, All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) etc., the meeting, held at the Bagaicha campus, set up by late tribal rights leader Fr Stan Swamy, was attended by representatives from different parts of Jharkhand like Chaibasa, Jamshedpur, Chakradharpur and Ranchi.
Rishit Neogi of AAM, briefly discussing the economic policy under which such changes in labour laws are being brought about, said the economic environment of the country is changing rapidly and multiple laws that govern land rights, labour rights, educational rights, rights of minorities and marginal communities, laws around public sector institutions, privatization, finance and commerce etc. are being amended without much discussion in Parliament.
The economy of the country in the pandemic era is in tatters, claimed Neogi, adding, permanent jobs are rare even in the organised sector. Problems are mounting for the unorganised sector for both skilled and unskilled labour. This is causing a huge increase in the number of employed people in the country.
According to him, outsourcing and contractual labour practices in the organised sector have led to a regime of hire and fire that has turned the lives of labourers into living hell. In this context, it is absolutely necessary that labour organisations, trade unions, labourers and other organisations and individuals who are with the working class should come together and discuss these issues and collectively raise their voice.
ML Singh of CITU speaking on the four labour codes, said, these changes are made for the benefit of 1% of the population by exploiting the 99% of the masses. Under these new codes, many of the benefits and safeties accorded to labourers have been removed. As a result of these new codes, the right of labourers to create trade unions has been attacked. The right to protest and strike has been made more difficult.
According to him, the new labour codes also attack the gender-based rights and safeties that were previously accorded to women workers. States like UP and Gujarat have already increased working hours to 12 hours per day, which is inhuman. They have made the practice of ‘hire and fire’ even easier. There are no provisions for permanent jobs left in India anymore.
Several participants, including Kadma (Johar Asangathit Majdoor Union), Ambika Yadav (Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha) Ashish Kudada (Johar Asangathit Majdoor Union), Bhuvneshwar Kewat (CPI-ML) and Aloka Kujur (AITUC) addressing the meeting, highlighted how the return of migrant workers during the lockdown in 2020 led to human rights abuses.
They said, a condition of helplessness still prevails among the labour class in India. Unemployment is rising, prices of necessities are increasing and there is no safety of life, health, or education in India. In this situation, changing the labour laws and taking away whatever remains of labour rights in India is nothing short of a conspiracy.
The meeting decided that more discussion meetings will be conducted across Jharkhand in order to spread awareness among unorganised workers about their rights and to demand from the government to scrap these 4 codes and create labour-friendly laws in the country. It proposed district-level meetings to make strategies for future struggle.

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