September , 2020
Intents of agriculture & labour reforms need people's confidence
12:01 pm

Buroshiva Dasgupta

Within a very short span of the monsoon session , the parliament has passed over 15 bills, mostly in absence of any opposition. They have boycotted the session claiming there has been no opportunities given to the opposition to discuss the bills in detail before being placed in the parliament.
True, the bills passed in the parliament this monsoon session are sensitive ones like the three bills on agriculture reforms and the ones on labour codes. But to claim that there has been no prior discussion is a half truth specially in case of the bills on labour reforms because they have come through  prolonged discussions within the parliamentary committees which included members  of the opposition.
Merits of the agricultural reforms have been discussed earlier. It is likely to have as widespread impact as the reforms of 1991. However, the government could have assured the farmers more strongly that the minimum support price (MSP) was not being withdrawn. The opposition themselves had promised these reforms in their election manifesto and in some states, like West Bengal, many of these reforms have already been passed in the state assemblies.
About the labour reforms bills, the opposition is equally vociferous,though they have tamely accepted the changes during the parliamentary committee meetings. Unfortunately, people are getting suspicious about the opposition antics,since they are more meant to play to the gallery.
Till recently, these labour laws which are long outdated, were only applicable to a miniscule of the workers who were permanent employees. The majority of Indian workforce is casual or contractual. Under the new reforms codes, all casual/ contractual workers would be brought under government benefits like health insurance. Bringing them under a legitimate register is a big enough change in a country like India.
Workers in the service sector, retail sector, real estate which are the growth areas in terms of recruitment will all get the benefits of the new labour laws.
Organisations employing more than 300 workers will have to seek government nod before they can go for a layoff. In other words the security net has been enlarged to a great extend.
A question may however be asked what happens to organisations which employs less than 300 ? The employees there can be subjected to ' hire and fire '? On what criteria was the cut off mark of 300 decided ? The government however is silent on these matters.
Both in agriculture and labour reforms there are merits which the opposition is deliberately slurring over. These changes are long overdue. The farmers have a right to choose the buyers of their goods. Thats a fundamental right long denied. And worker needs to have a sense of security in their workplace. A well meaning government should have made proper provisions of law for them long before. But neither the opposition is serious about their protests nor the government has been able instill confidence in the people about the genuineness of their intentions.

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