The RSS-backed trade union, the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, and the Bharatiya Janata Party are pitted against each other on the issue of suspension of labour laws in three BJP-ruled states.
The UP government, for instance, has abolished all but three labour laws in the state. If the State government's ordinance is approved, an employer can terminate the services of an employee as per his whim. He can also choose whether to pay the employees overtime or not, or give them access to paid holidays, gratuity or maternity benefits or even any compensation for termination.
The other states which are taking similar decisions are Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. The BMS has said these anti-worker measures were unheard of in history and rare even in most undemocratic countries.
The BMS has also said migrant workers' problems have been aggravated mainly because there is a "gross violation" of laws by most of the states.
The BMS will observe a Nationwide Protest Dayon May 20, besides taking recourse to other agitation programmes. The decision was taken at the BMS national office-bearers web meeting held on May 13, in which it strongly condemned the total withdrawal of labour laws in UP, MP and Gujarat.
In UP, key labour laws have been suspended for three years. The BMS has also strongly criticised the increase in working hours from eight to 12 in some other states.
Meanwhile, a Jharkhand-based social activist on Thursday moved the Supreme Court for quashing of the notifications issued by the BJP governments in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh relaxing the provisions of the Factory Act and the Industrial Dispute Act for facilitating economic activity, while citing ‘public emergency” in the wake of COVID 19. Social activists Pankaj Kumar Yadav has said that these changes were to the advantage of industry owners and to the detriment of the poor workers, as their rights under these two statutes get suspended.
The Section 5 of the Factories Act and Section 36B of the Industrial Dispute Act have been invoked by the State governments which exempts the industry from all or any of the provisions of these two statues, except relating to the employment of minor children.
However, in the case of Factories Act the powers under Section 5 can be invoked to put to sleep the rest of the provisions of the law only in a “grave emergency” whereby the security of India or of any part of the territory is threatened. Seeking the stay of the gazette notification by which labour laws have been suspended, the petitioner has sought a declaration that the notification issued by Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh governments were ultra vires the provisions of section 5 of the Factories Act, 1948, and Article 14 (equality before law) and Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.
It is no doubt true that presently, the entire world is passing through the most difficult times; however, the PIL says “even in such a situation, a Welfare State cannot be expected to force its least fortunate and most oppressed citizens into further miseries on the pretext of facilitating economic activities/development by taking away their existing right to their detriment and for the advantage of more fortunate citizens.”