15/5/2020 : The Hindu Editorials Mains Sure Shot

Q-Labours are backbone of industries their safety and security is the prime goal of any successful Civilization. Elucidate in the context of India?


  • The labour laws are civilizational goals and cannot be trumped on the excuse of a pandemic.
  • Their safety and security should be prime concern of the respective state governments.


  • Due to the public health crisis of COVID-19 pandemic, workers are ignored by employers and, above all, by the states e.g. their right to go home was curbed using Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  • Adequate provisions were not made available for their food, shelter or medical relief.
  • Wage payments were not ensured, and the state’s cash and food relief did not cover most workers.
  • When the centre issued orders permitting their return to their home States, state governments responded by delaying travel facilities for the workers to ensure uninterrupted supply of labour for employers.
  • Employers now want labour laws to be relaxed.

Examples/actions of state government:

  • The Uttar Pradesh government has issued an ordinance keeping in abeyance almost all labour statutes including laws on maternity benefits and gratuity; the Factories Act, 1948; the Minimum Wages Act, 1948; the Industrial Establishments (Standing Orders) Act, 1946; and the Trade Unions Act, 1926.
  • Several States have exempted industries from complying with various provisions of laws.
  • The Confederation of Indian Industry has suggested 12-hour work shifts and that governments issue directions to make workers join duty failing which the workers would face penal actions.

Thus, after an organised abandonment of the unorganised workforce, the employers want the state to reintroduce laissez-faire and a system of indenture for the organised workforce too. This will take away the protection conferred on organised labour by Parliament.


The Colonial exploitation:

  • What India is witnessing today bears a horrifying resemblance to what happened over 150 years ago in British India.
  • The move is reminiscent of the barbaric system of indentured labour introduced through the Bengal Regulations VII, 1819 for the British planters in Assam tea estates.
    • Workers had to work under a five-year contract and desertion was made punishable.
  • Later, the Transport of Native Labourers’ Act, 1863 was passed in Bengal.
    • It strengthened control of the employers and even enabled them to detain labourers in the district of employment and imprison them for six months.
  • Bengal Act VI of 1865 was later passed.
    • It deployed Special Emigration Police to prevent labourers from leaving, and return them to the plantation after detention.
  • Factory workers too faced severe exploitation and were made to work 16-hour days for a pittance. Their protests led to the Factories Act of 1911 which introduced 12-hour work shifts. Yet, the low wages, arbitrary wage cuts and other harsh conditions forced workers into debt slavery.

Emergence of Labour Laws in India:

  • It is the result of workers’ struggles, which were very much part of the freedom movement against oppressive colonial industrialists.
  • Since the 1920s there were a series of strikes and agitations for better working conditions. Several trade unionists were arrested under the Defence of India Rules.
  • The workers’ demands were supported by our political leaders.
  • Britain was forced to appoint the Royal Commission on Labour, which gave a report in 1935.
  • The Government of India Act, 1935 enabled greater representation of Indians in law-making.
  • This resulted in reforms, which are forerunners to the present labour enactments.
  • The indentured plantation labour saw relief in the form of the Plantations Labour Act, 1951.
  • By a democratic legislative process, the Parliament stepped in to protect labour.

The respectful dignity through democracy:

  • The Factories Act lays down eight-hour work shifts, with overtime wages, weekly offs, leave with wages and measures for health, hygiene and safety.
  • The Industrial Disputes Act provides for workers’ participation to resolve wage and other disputes through negotiations so that strikes/lockouts, unjust retrenchments and dismissals are avoided.
  • The Minimum Wages Act ensures wages below which it is not possible to subsist.
  • These enactments further the Directive Principles of State Policy and protect the right to life and the right against exploitation under Articles 21 and 23.
  • Trade unions have played critical roles in transforming the life of a worker from that of servitude to one of dignity. Any move to undo these laws will push the workers a century backwards.
  • Considering the underlying constitutional goals of these laws, Parliament did not delegate to the executive any blanket powers of exemption.
  • Section 5 of the Factories Act empowers the State governments to exempt only in case of a “public emergency”, which is explained as a “grave emergency whereby the security of India or any part of the territory thereof is threatened, whether by war or external aggression or internal disturbance”.
  • There is no such threat to the security of India now.
  • Hours of work or holidays cannot be exempted even for public institutions.
  • Section 36B of the Industrial Disputes Act enables exemption for a government industry only if provisions exist for investigations and settlements.

No statutory support:

  • The orders of the State governments lack statutory support.
  • Labour is a concurrent subject in the Constitution and most pieces of labour legislation are Central enactments.
  • The Constitution does not envisage approval by the President of a State Ordinance which makes a whole slew of laws enacted by Parliament inoperable in the absence of corresponding legislations on the same subject.
  • Almost all labour contracts are now governed by statutes, settlements or adjudicated awards arrived through democratic processes in which labour has been accorded at least procedural equality. Such procedures ensure progress of a nation.
  • In the Life Insurance Corporation v. D. J. Bahadur & Ors (1980) case, the Supreme Court highlighted that any changes in the conditions of service can be only through a democratic process of negotiations or legislation. 


  • The orders and ordinances issued by the State governments are undemocratic and unconstitutional. The existing conditions of labour will have to be continued.
  • Global corporations had their origins in instruments of colonialism and their legacy was inherited by Indian capital post-Independence. The resurgence of such a colonial mindset is a danger to society and the well-being of millions and puts at risk the health and safety of not only the workforce but their families too.
  • In the unequal bargaining power between capital and labour, regulatory laws provide a countervailing balance and ensure the dignity of labour.
  • Governments have a constitutional duty to ensure just, humane conditions of work and maternity benefits.
  • The health and strength of the workers cannot be abused by force of economic necessity.




Q- Discuss climate change and unsustainable resource management have degraded ecosystems and diminished biodiversity in the seas of the Asia-Pacific region?



The condition of how, in less than a century, climate change and unsustainable resource management have degraded ecosystems and diminished biodiversity in the seas of the Asia-Pacific region.


The Degraded Ecosystems:

  • Escalating strains on the marine environment are threatening to drown progress and way of life in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • For generations, the region has thrived on the seas for food, livelihoods and a sense of identity.

The less availability of data:

  • Due to limitations in methodology and national statistical systems, information gaps have persisted at uneven levels across countries.
  • Insights from ‘Changing Sails: Accelerating Regional Actions for Sustainable Oceans in Asia and the Pacific’ (the theme study of this year’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific – ESCAP) reveal that without data, there is lack of clarity about the state of water bodies in the region.
    • Data are available for only two out of ten targets for the Sustainable Development Goal 14, ‘Life Below Water’.

The Plastic pollution:

  • Marine plastic pollution in the region’s rivers has contributed to most of the debris flooding the ocean.
  • Asia and the Pacific produces nearly half of global plastic by volume, of which it consumes 38%.
  • Plastics represent a double burden for the ocean:
    • Their production generates CO2 absorbed by the ocean.
    • Also, the final product enters the ocean as pollution.
  • Beating this challenge will hinge upon effective national policies and re-thinking production cycles.

The fishing stocks impact:

  • Levels of overfishing have exponentially increased, leaving fish stocks and food systems vulnerable.
  • Environmental decline is also affecting fish stocks.
  • The region’s position as the world’s largest producer of fish has come at the cost of over-exploitation.
  • The percentage of stocks fished at unsustainable levels has increased threefold from 10% in 1974 to 33% in 2015.
  • Generating complete data on fish stocks, fighting illicit fishing activity and conserving marine areas must remain a priority.

Way forward:

  • Closing the maritime connectivity gap must be placed at the centre of regional transport cooperation efforts. While the most connected shipping economies are in Asia, the small island developing States of the Pacific experience much lower levels of connectivity, leaving them relatively isolated from the global economy.
  • Efforts must be taken to navigate toward green shipping. Enforcing sustainable shipping policies is essential.
  • Trans-boundary ocean management and linking ocean data call for close cooperation among countries in the region.
  • Harnessing ocean statistics through strong national statistical systems will serve as a compass guiding countries to monitor trends, devise timely responses and clear blind spots.
  • Through the Ocean Accounts Partnership, ESCAP is working with countries to harmonise ocean data and provide a space for regular dialogue.
  • Translating international agreements and standards into national action is also key.
  • Countries and all ocean custodians must be fully equipped to localise global agreements into tangible results.
  • ESCAP is working with member states to implement International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirements.
  • Keeping the ocean plastic-free will depend on policies that promote a circular economy approach. This minimises resource use and will require economic incentives and disincentives.


  • While the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily reduced pollution in the seas, this should not be a moment of reprieve. Rather, recovery efforts need to build a new reality, embedded in sustainability.
  • Efforts are needed to steer our collective fleets toward sustainable oceans.


Fodder points:

  • Have to strengthen the international agencies to take actions and do research,
  • Regional cooperation with the sentiments of eco-friendly attitude,
  • effective and implementational regional strategy should be follow.

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