QUESTION : Discuss the problems with labour section of India? What are the steps taken by GoI for solving these problems ?
A RECIPE TO TEAR DOWN TRADE UNIONS
Trade Unions and Workers’ Rights in India
WHY IN NEWS ?
Labour law ‘reform’ has been on the table since 1991 as every government’s favourite solution for economic growth. Yet, there was no consensus between governments,political parties, workers and their trade unions, and employers, on what this meant.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND :
- Trade unions first emerged in the 19th century as self-managed organisation of workers in the face of extreme exploitation.
- They provided, and continue to provide, a collective voice to working people against employers’ exploitative, unfair and often illegal practices.
- It is through trade unions that workers have been able to win better wages, fairer employment conditions, and safe and secure workplaces.
TRADE UNION ACT,1926 :
- In India, workers won the legal right to form trade unions under the colonial rule in 1926, when the Trade Union Act (TUA) was adopted.
- The law provided a mechanism for the registration of trade unions, from which they derived their rights, and a framework governing their functioning.
- The TUA also bound workers’ actions within a legal framework by providing for deregistration if a trade union “contravened any provisions of the Act”.
- The TUA gave workers the right, through their registered trade union, to take steps to press their claims, and where necessary, as in the case of a malevolent employer, agitate for their claims and advance them before the government and the judiciary.
- It also provided members (workers) and elected officers of a union a degree of immunity, including against the law on criminal conspiracy.
PROBLEMS FACED BY THE LABOUR MOVEMENT POST INDEPENDENCE :
- Uneven growth: They are concentrated in the metropolises, largely catering to organised sector. Rural Agricultural labour and small scale labour are grossly underrepresented.
- Low membership: Trade union membership is growing, but the vast majority of India’s labour is not part of any trade unions. This reduces their collective bargaining power.
- Weak financial position: Membership fees are set too low (25 paise) by the Trade Union Act, 1926. They are particularly disadvantaged against corporate lobbying groups that are flush with cash.
- Political leadership: Careerist politicians and vested political agenda mean that worker interests are sidelined. Since the leadership may not be from the labour force, they are held captive to party politics. This lead to further exploitation.
- The multiplicity of unions: Bargaining power is diluted and it is easy for employers to divert the attention of the labour.
- Inter-union rivalry: There are conflicts of interest and party politics between the unions.
- The problem of recognition: Employers are under no obligation to give them recognition. This means that docile unions get recognition and genuine ones may be sidelined.
- Diverse nature of labour: Most unions don’t have properly differentiated organisational structure to cater to different classes of labour. Eg: Differences between agricultural, formal and informal labour.
- Lack of public support: Especially post 1991, trade unionism is looked down as an impediment to growth and development. This has led to a general ebbing of the movement across the country.
MAJOR LABOUR UNIONS IN INDIA :
- All India Trade Union Congress – Communist Party of India.
- Indian National Trade Union Congress – Indian National Congress.
- Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh – Bharatiya Janata Party.
- Centre for Indian Trade Unions – CPI(M).
- Hind Mazdoor Sabha – Samajwadi Party.
- Self Employed Women’s Association – Unaffiliated.
THREE NEWLY PROPOSED BILLS :
- Industrial Relations Code Bill 2020
- Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code Bill, 2020
- Code on Social Security Bill, 2020
BENEFITS OF LABOUR CODES :
Consolidation and simplification of the Complex laws
: The three Codes simplify labour laws by subsuming 25 central labour laws that have been on the table for at least 17 years.
o It will provide a big boost to industry & employment and will reduce multiplicity of definition and multiplicity of authority for businesses.
Single Licensing Mechanism: The codes provide for a single licensing mechanism. It will give fillip to industries by ushering in substantive reform in the licensing mechanism. Currently, industries have to apply for their licence under different laws.
Easier Dispute resolution: The codes also simplify archaic laws dealing with industrial disputes and revamp the adjudication process, which will pave the way for early resolution of disputes.
Ease of Doing Business: According to the industry and some economists such reform shall boost investment and improve ease of doing business. It drastically reduces complexity and internal contradictions, increases flexibility & modernizes regulations on safety/working conditions
Other benefits for Labour: The three codes will promote fixed term employment, reduce influence of trade unions and expand the social security net for informal sector workers.
WHAT ARE THE ISSUES WITH NEW LABOUR CODES ?
- Dilutes rights of Workers: Workers in small establishments (with up to 300 workers) will have their rights watered down with no protection of trade unions, labour laws.
- Workers safety safeguards diluted: The new rules will enable companies to introduce arbitrary service conditions for workers.
- Corporate Friendly: The new rules provides more flexibility to employers for hiring and firing workers without government permission.
- Restricts Freedom of Speech: Restrictions on strikes and demonstrations is akin to assault on the freedom of industrial actions.
- Ambiguity about reskilling Fund: The Code lacks clarity on the substantive and procedural aspects of reskilling Fund which will fizzle out like the National Renewal Fund in the 1990s.
- Women’s Safety: Allowing women to work during night time inspite of various safeguards imposed may increase their vulnerability to sexual abuse.
LABOUR IN INDIAN CONSTITUTION :
- Article 246 Labour being in concurrent list, many states and even centre have enacted laws. It led to confusion and chaos.
- Article 43A (42nd amendment) – directing state to take steps to ensure workers participation in management of industries.
- Article 23 forbids forced labor, Article 24 forbids child labor (in factories, mines and other hazardous occupations) below age of 14 years.
INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION (ILO) :
- Founded in 1919 as result of Treaty of Versailles, it became first specialized agency under United Nations in 1945. Its vision is to secure humane working conditions for workers and to attain social justice for them universally. In short it carries ‘Decent Work Agenda’
- It has produced about 189 legally binding conventions on member countries and more than 200 non-binding recommendations. It is also global center for research and study on work and labor.
- It also gave 4 core standards on labor which are part of general human rights as per UN declarations. These are –
1- Freedom of Association, Right to organize and Right to Collective Bargaining
2- Abolition of forced labour.
3- Minimum age of employment and abolition of child labour.
4- Prohibition on workplace discrimination and Equal pay for men and women for work of equal value.
SALIENT FEATURES OF LABOUR REGULATIONS IN INDIA :
- India has a federal government and the Constitution has demarcated law making authority between the centre and the states through the Union list, State List and the Concurrent List.
- Regulation of labour is on the Union List but certain aspects such as industrial disputes and social security also figure on the Concurrent List. As a result, both the Parliament and state legislatures have been enacting labour laws and there is multiplicity of such laws.
- State amendments provide mostly for minor variations, but sometimes for more significant ones, without departing from the main thrust of the central enactment.
WAY FORWARD :
- Labour laws applicable to the formal sector should be modified to introduce an optimum combination of flexibility and security.
- Make the compliance of working conditions regulations more effective and transparent.
- There is a need for holistic labour laws reforms, which would enable firms to expand, while keeping the interest of labours intact, thereby resulting in the formalisation of the Indian economy
- With respect to Covid-19 pandemic, the central and state governments in India should follow what most governments have done across the world.
- The government should partner with the industry and allocate a percentage of the GDP towards sharing the wage burden and ensuring the health of the labourers.
In the changed economic scenario post COVID-19 pandemic, the government has to balance the rights of workers and economic recovery. Favouring one over the other will impact the Country’s prospects in long run.
QUESTION : Discuss the recent developments in India-US relations and what are various issues in India-US relations ?
INDIA-US RELATIONS UNDER JOE BIDEN
WHY IN NEWS ?
The long drawn out US elections finally resulted in Joe Biden being declared President-elect. The Biden-Kamala Harris administration will be sworn in on 20th January 2021.
MORE ABOUT :
- China Factor: India is essential to the US’s hopes of counterbalancing China. As a result, security cooperation has become the cornerstone of any Indo-US strategic partnership.
- New Millennium New Direction: The George W Bush administration first began the US commitment to co-opting India as a “natural ally”, a commitment that resulted in the landmark civil nuclear deal in 2008.
- Since then, while there had been progress, it had also not been as rapid or deep as the US would perhaps have liked.
- India-U.S. bilateral relations have developed into a “global strategic partnership”, based on shared democratic values and increasing convergence of interests on bilateral, regional and global issues.
- Regular exchange of high-level political visits has provided sustained momentum to bilateral cooperation, while the wide-ranging and ever-expanding dialogue architecture has established a long-term framework for India-U.S. engagement.
- India-U.S. bilateral cooperation is broad-based and multi-sectoral, covering trade and investment, defence and security, education, science and technology, cyber security, high-technology, civil nuclear energy, space technology and applications, clean energy, environment, agriculture and health.
INDIA-US RELATIONS PROGRESSED UNDER TRUMP ERA :
- Fast Diplomacy: In the past four years under the Donald Trump administration, Indo-US security cooperation moved at breakneck speed.
- Status of Major Defence Partner: In 2016, the US designated India as a Major Defence Partner, which led to, among other things, India being able to receive access to a wide range of military and dual-use American technologies.
- Foundational Defence Agreement signed : Over the space of three years, three defence agreements – LEMOA, COMCASA, BECA – were reached and signed.
- Institutional Structure for Strategic Dialogue: In 2018, the two countries began the 2+2 strategic dialogue, one of the highest level dialogues ever institutionalised.
- Joint Exercises: In 2019, the US and India conducted Tiger Triumph, the first ever tri-service (ground, naval, and air forces) exercises between them.
- QUAD taking shape: In 2020, Australia joined India, Japan, and the US in conducting the India-led Malabar naval exercises, giving a big impetus to the Quad .
- Chinese aggressiveness acted as catalyst: In the US view, while it had always been ready to engage in this level of cooperation, it was the border clashes with China that made India more willing to engage deeply with the US.
Despite both the US and India being on the same page in terms of the deepening relationship, there are obstacles that have remained like:
- Indian Military’s systemic dependence on Russia: The US believes that India, which is still 60% to 70% dependent on Russia for military resupplies and hardware, will, in the future, have to choose with the kind of warfare that India wants to align itself with. India can no longer choose from an à la carte military menu; rather it has to choose a system.
- India’s insistence on Strategic Autonomy: The real Achilles’ heel is, as experts have pointed out, is India’s economics and the continuing harping on strategic autonomy. PM Modi’s use of power (full majority) to promote a nationalistic agenda is viewed by US as a lost opportunity which has not brought the expected economic growth.
- Domestic Issues: President Biden would be more committed to human rights which could lead to a rift with India, on, for example Kashmir.
POTENTIAL OF BOTH NATIONS UNDER BIDEN :
- Despite these obstacles, a Biden administration will not particularly change the relationship. And, in many ways, it may even come out stronger.
- Any US concerns, like that of Kashmir, are more likely to be conveyed privately rather than publicly.
- Under President Trump, decision-making was more ad hoc and at times chaotic. The dismantling of US national security decision structure by Trump, due to his deep suspicion of bureaucracy, added to this chaos.
- President Biden will restore the US national security decision structure – like regular inter-agency meetings, National Security Council meetings – and a process by which bureaucracy recommendations and decisions will make its way up to the President’s office.
- Biden is also more likely to be considerate when it comes to Climate funding, which India needs so as to fulfil its Paris Climate Commitments
- President Biden will reverse the US withdrawal of leadership role in International affairs and help in resurrecting the rules-based international order under the leadership of US. This is in the interest of India because the space left by US will be occupied by China
While it is undeniable that Trump and Modi had a bond, both Biden and Modi are likely to be extremely pragmatic about a relationship which is really about the geopolitical compulsions.