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    Modi’s experiment with labour laws

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    Prime Minister Modi has launched new labour reforms aiming to change the country’s work culture, boosting the economy and promoting social security.

    Modi on October 16 initiated the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Shrameva Jayate Karyakram during an event at the Labour Ministry. He said that ‘Shramev Jayate’ initiatives were a part of ‘Make in India’ vision, paving the way for skill development of youth in a big way. The government had sent around 20 million SMS text messages apprising organisations, labourers and youth about these schemes. As a step in this direction, all 1,800 labour inspectors will be disallowed from swooping down on companies and instead, a computerised system will randomly send them on inspections, based on data trends and objective criteria. Following inspections, they will have to upload their reports within 72 hours and cannot modify them thereafter. Modi also unveiled nearly half-a-dozen schemes, including a Shram Suvidha Portal where employers can submit a single compliance report for 16 labour laws, a new web-based labour inspection system, unique account numbers for members of the EPFO, a revamped Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana as well as a new skill development and apprenticeship scheme.

    Modi had said that it the government’s responsibility to simplify trade. He also added that all the facilities provided to the citizens are part of his “minimum government, maximum governance” policy. He said that the latest move would bring back the dignity of labour and respect to those who choose to undertake vocational training or work as apprentices. The pro business labour reforms, according to the sources, makes it easier to do business and free factories from the grip of Inspector –raj. The new law ensures that all the payments above Rs 1000 made to the workers are credited to their bank accounts. The workers would be entitled to three national holidays and five festival holidays each year along with their regular leave. A key aspect of the law is that women workers would be allowed to work in night shifts if the employers provide adequate infrastructure and all the production units employing more than 20 women are to ensure crèche facilities for children.

    Modi had recently appointed Dr. Arvind Subramanian, as the Chief Economic Adviser to the government. He had formerly served the IMF for around 10 years and earlier, had opposed India’ stance on the food security and farm subsidies in the recent WTO meeting. He had also called Arun Jaitley's first budget 'disappointing but retrievable'. Subramanian is expected to steer the economy for Modi working in the interests of the investors.

    The new labour changes have invited sharp criticisms as it favours the investors and doesn’t have nothing much to do with the working class. The law is also being critisised for being implemented without even discussing with the trade unions who are skeptical of the government’s stance. The angered labour organizations had said that it was a clear denial of their rights. Despite inspections, many labour laws and social security schemes like EPF and ESI were not being implemented for large chunk of workers. The new reforms would only aggravate the situation and further infuriate the employers. It seems that the subsidies in the food, health and education sectors would be eventually cut down by the NDA government who always hails pro business policies.

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