March 24, 2024
Workers Betrayed! Defeat BJP!!

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THE ten years of Modi led BJP government saw a relentless attack on the livelihood and working conditions of the workers. The hard won rights of the workers are sought to be curtailed to facilitate their unbridled exploitation by the big corporates.

The BJP government has subsumed twenty nine existing labour laws into four labour codes. It is being propagated that these would universalise minimum wage, expand social security coverage and improve working environment. Nothing can be farther from truth.

The code on wages, passed soon after the Modi government returned to power in 2019, does not provide universal minimum wage as different thresholds are applied for different areas. It also does not ensure minimum wages for all workers including the unorganised workers. The formula for fixing minimum wages, as per the recommendations of the 15th Indian Labour Conference (ILC), is incorporated only in the Rules and not in the main Act.

Modi government fixed the ‘floor wage’ at Rs 176 in 2017. It has been increased to Rs 178, i.e., by Rs 2 in 2019!

The code on occupational safety, health and working conditions subsumes existing labour laws pertaining to working conditions of workers, their implementation mechanism and enforcement. The provisions in the existing laws have been highly diluted or grossly altered to benefit the employers.

It enables increase in working hours to 12 a day. In addition, serious changes are made in the character of employment relations by promoting and legalising fragile employment like fixed term employment, contract work etc in the name of flexibility. Thus, besides increasing exploitation, workers performing the same job at the same workplace are divided through different wages and working conditions to prevent their unionisation and collective actions.

The contract workers and the migrant workers are the worst to be affected. The Inter State Migrant Workmen’s Act, which provided some protection to the migrant workers, has been subsumed in this code diluting or omitting all the protective provisions in this Act.

The code on industrial relations deprives the basic rights of the workers to organisation and collective action. Registering trade unions will become more difficult. Registrars are given arbitrary powers to cancel union registration. It facilitates the ‘hire and fire’ regime for the employers. Collective actions are sought to be made impossible. The code enables the authorities to declare most of the strikes as ‘illegal’.

The code on social security does not propose any specific benefits for the workers. There is no concrete social security scheme; nor are the necessary resources provided. In fact it has made even the existing social security rights and provisions for large sections of workers, uncertain. Workers in industries like beedi, iron ore mines, mica mines, limestone mines and dolomite mines were covered by specific laws that provided social security benefits to them. These acts have now been subsumed by the code on social security. Cess collection to fund their social security has been abandoned with the introduction of GST. In the case of the construction workers, the provisions related to cess under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund Act and the grievance redress mechanism are highly diluted.

Under the pretext of rationalising existing time tested social security schemes like EPF and ESI, the code has actually laid the foundation for the process of dismantling them. The demand for gratuity raised by the entire trade union movement is also ignored in the code. The BJP government has totally ignored the demand for increase in the minimum EPS pension from the measly amount of Rs 1000 per month; even this is not properly implemented.

Inspection and monitoring are the basic requirements to ensure implementation of any legislation. These are totally dismantled by the labour codes by instituting self certification. There are so many ‘as may be decided’ provisions in the labour codes, empowering the executive and enabling the government to make changes without the necessity to go to parliament, which passed these codes.

The labour codes enacted by Modi government are meant to ensure ‘Ease of Doing Business’ for the big corporates. This is sought to be achieved by attacking the existing hard won basic rights of the workers and enabling unbridled exploitation of the workers.

BJP has been stubbornly refusing to scrap NPS and restore the Old Pension Scheme for government employees.

Modi government did not increase the remuneration even by one rupee for the anganwadi workers and helpers since 2018. The remuneration for ASHAs and midday meal workers has not been increased in its entire tenure of ten years. 

Around 80 lakh workers, overwhelmingly women, employed in various schemes of the government of India, continue to be denied recognition as ‘workers’. The consensus recommendation of Indian Labour Conferences (ILC) that scheme workers including anganwadi workers and helpers, ASHAs, NCLP (National Child Labour Project) teaching and non teaching staff should be recognised as ‘workers, paid minimum wages and provided social security benefits’, is totally ignored.

The Supreme Court order that anganwadi workers and helpers should be paid gratuity remains unimplemented, even after around two years. The budgetary allocations for these schemes have been drastically curtailed by the Modi government – by 55 per cent for ICDS, by 30 per cent for the midday meal programme and by 20 per cent for NHM in the first budget of Modi government.

The government has been trying to dismantle these schemes by privatising them and handing them over to big corporates like Vedanta, PepsiCo and Patanjali and to corporate NGOs like ISKON.

Female labour force participation rate in India is among the lowest in the world. After falling for years, women’s workforce participation rate has shown an increase in the recent period, which the Modi government claims, is a result of its policies. However, the reality is that this increase is because of distress driven unpaid self employment. Before Covid, 50 per cent of women were self employed. After Covid this rose to 60 per cent. Also earnings from self employment declined in real terms over this period. Economists in the Conference on Finance and Economy in India discussed how more than 50 per cent of women are self employed of whom half are employed in unpaid family work or working in family farms.

The Modi government has been claiming to have increased paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks. But the reality is that more and more women are pushed into unpaid work. Over 82 per cent of women workers are in the unorganised sector, mostly in agriculture. They are out of purview of the Maternity Benefit Act. Of those employed in the organised sector, large number are in the private sector, as contract or outsourced workers for whom the Act is mostly not implemented. This will further worsen with the dismantling of inspection mechanism. What is even more shameful is that the government of India has been denying maternity benefit to the lakhs of ASHAs and midday meal workers working in its own schemes.


Permanent employment in government departments and central public sector enterprises has sharply declined. In central public sector enterprises it has declined by 2.7 lakhs, from 17.3 lakhs in March 2013 to 14.6 lakh in March 2022. The number of contract and outsourced workers has increased from 19 per cent to 42.5 per cent in the same period. It is reported that around 65 per cent of the contract workers in the public sector enterprises were appointed during the last ten years.

In seven CPSEs the number of total employed declined by more than 20,000 in the past ten years. In BSNL it was reduced by around 1.8 lakh. In Steel Authority of India Limited and MTNL over 30,000 job losses were reported in this period

The staff strength in public sector banks has declined by nearly 1 lakh between 2014 and 2023. At the same time, the number of bank mitras or business correspondents, who are not recognised as employees, has gone up to over 35 lakhs, i.e., more than four times that of permanent bank employees. The staff strength in private sector banks more than doubled during the same period.

The number of permanent employees in the Railways has been drastically brought down. More than three lakh posts are lying vacant in the Indian Railways including in the safety category and of loco pilots. On the other hand more than five lakh contract workers are employed in the Railways including in safety related jobs like track maintenance, signalling etc. The increased workload and stress lead to accidents and loss of life.

Contract and outsourced workers doing the same job are paid only a fraction of the wages of the permanent employees. As is well known, there is no reservation in the private sector and in the outsourced and contractual jobs.

The Modi led BJP government represents the corporate communal nexus and has refused to change its anti-worker, anti-people policies despite repeated appeals and representations from the joint trade union movement. Improving the conditions of the workers requires reversal of neoliberal policies and this in turn can be achieved only by intensifying united struggles. The BJP government is not only determined to pursue neoliberal policies, it is also guided by the rabidly communal divisive RSS.

Defeating the BJP is thus a prerequisite for strengthening united struggles.



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