The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), which spearheaded demands to roll back changes in labour laws by several states, has welcomed the Centre’s objection to states having taken the ordinance route for dispensing with the laws.
Labour laws were changed by several states, including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, as part of efforts to spur economic activity amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Several states also opted to suspend labour laws to woo investors, particularly those wanting to shift base from China to India. The Kerala government brought an ordinance to nullify a high court order prohibiting the compulsory deduction of a month’s salary of its employees.
After the International Labour Organization (ILO) expressed concern at attempts to roll back long-standing labour laws and said India, as a signatory, has to abide by its commitments, Union labour minister Santosh Gangwar clarified the laws wouldn’t be dispensed with.
BMS president CK Saji Narayana said in a statement that Gangwar’s comment – that the complete suspension of laws is not reform based on settled national and international positions – “exposes the blunder of ordinance route adopted by the four states”.
He also noted that Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, while announcing the Rs 20-lakh crore package, had said the government will not take the ordinance route for changing labour laws.
“The trend of increasing working hours from eight hours to 12 was started by the Rajasthan government and adopted by nearly 15 states. Now the reverse trend of ‘correcting the mistake’ has started with first the Uttar Pradesh government reverting back to eight hours, followed by the Rajasthan government. BMS demands other state governments also to follow it,” Narayana said.
To protest against the changes to these laws, BMS, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh (RSS), led nationwide demonstrations on May 20.