Eight labor unions, supported mostly by left-wing parties, hold a May 11 protest against the move of three Indian state governments to change laws to take away workers' rights. (Photo supplied)
Three Indian states have relaxed labor laws to reduce workers' rights, aiming to invite private investment to a sagging economy, but critics say the move will push the country backward.Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, all governed by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, have announced either suspension or changes to most labor laws for the next three years, purportedly to revive a sagging economy hit by the Covid-19 pandemic."Certainly, this move is not in the interest of the workers or these states," Bishop Alex Vadkaumthala, chairman of the Indian bishops' labor office, told UCA News on May 10."Unlike many Western countries, Indian society does not recognize the rights of workers, leaving them totally at the mercy of employers. The move means the death knell for workers' rights."
The state governments claim the labor reforms are needed to attract investment to India from global firms that are leaving China in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The infection was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December.
He wanted the federal government to reject the amendments and uphold workers' rights.
Labor unions protest
India has nearly 500 million workers, with 94 percent of them marginal workers in unorganized sectors, ranging from staff in wayside restaurants to people making jewelry at home.The suspension of labor rights "will push the country back to the dark ages," said Govind Yadav, a Supreme Court lawyer and former labor union leader.He said the state governments at one stroke "put into dustbins more than two dozen labor laws" enacted in the last seven decades of independent India to protect workers from exploitation.He said the move would ultimately work against the national interest. "Multinational companies have surplus funds and advanced technology. With cheap labor government concessions, they can produce cheaper than local producers. It will gradually wipe out our small and medium industries who have to pay a high cost for production," he explained.Eight labor unions, supported by mostly left-wing parties, held a protest against the law changes on May 11. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the union associated with the BJP, also joined the protest.In a letter to President Kovind, the union said that "workers are being treated as slaves." Taking away labor rights "is not merely a violation of the constitution but its nullification," it said.The Indian economy was already in a tailspin hurtling towards a recession even before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic."The government has done little to help those who lost their livelihoods," the letter said, adding that 140 million workers had lost their jobs since the Covid-19 lockdown began.