With several state governments making change in labour laws, including increasing the working time in factories from 8 hours to 12 hours, leaders of eight political parties on Friday wrote to President Ram Nath Kovind urging him to intervene to protect the rights of the working class. They accused the Central government of diluting labour laws using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse.
“Using the pretext of battling the Covid-19 pandemic, drastic changes are being made to the existing labour laws of the country which further jeopardises the lives and wellbeing of the working people. Already the country is witness to the most inhuman tragic dimensions of the plight of the migrant works since the national lockdown has been enforced. Far from protecting the fundamental right to life and dignity, today’s conditions are barbaric,” the leaders said in the letter.
“Using the pretext of battling the pandemic, the daily working hours have been increased from eight to twelve hours through executive orders in various states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Punjab without amending the Factories Act. Some other states are likely to join this growing list. The state government of Uttar Pradesh has suspended all labour laws, except three, for a period of three years.
“The Madhya Pradesh government, similarly, announced a cabinet decision to exempt all establishments from obligations under all labour laws for a period of a thousand days. The fundamental right for the workers to organise themselves into unions is also being gravely threatened,” the letter added.
The letter was signed by CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D Raja, Sharad Yadav, CPI (ML)-L general secretary Dipankar Bhattarcharya, Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) general secretary Manoj Bhattacharya, RJD MP Manoj Jha, and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal president Katchi Thol Thirumavalavan.
Diluting labour rights, they said, “seems to be the logic employed by “your government” at the centre and by some state governments, rather than concentrating on fighting the pandemic by augmenting our health facilities and protecting our doctors and health workers and taking care of the people’s requirements.”
Referring to the rail accident in Aurangabad, where 16 migrant workers, who were sleeping on rail tracks, were crushed to death by a goods train, the leaders said, “the easing of restrictions have not been accompanied by the required safety measures and environmental concerns.
“Such negligence has led to the Vizag industrial accident claiming 11 lives and hundreds hospitalized. The concerns for the safety and survival of the workers is grossly neglected by “your government,” they added.
The leaders alleged the Government has done very little to look after the people who have lost all their livelihood and claimed that least 14 crore workers have lost jobs since the lockdown began.
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