Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has not as yet introduced labour reforms. He has introduced administrative reforms related to labour. He has utilized digital technology to ensure efficiency and transparency in implementation of existing labour laws. This is welcome and futuristic. But already trade union leaders of AITUC and INTUC have condemned the reforms for being pro-employers. Existing labour laws need to be reviewed and amended to ensure satisfaction to both owners as well as workers. Mr. Narendra Modi’s announced reforms related to labour are welcome and signal the start of more that will come. Much more is required to modernize work conditions that make India a role model regarding its work culture and labour reform.
Effective labour reforms must optimize increased productivity for owners, equitable wages and security for workers, enhancement of employment for the nation, and better coordination between the central government and state governments. Rajasthan Chief Minister Ms Vasundara Raje has amended central labour laws to promote jobs in her state. Mr. Modi will have to do much more. He will have to introduce legislation that will address the interests of all stake holders participating in his “Make in India” project a success. He will do well to translate guidelines on labour reform contained in our Constitution into practical policies that deliver results.
Articles 38-39 and 41-43A of our Constitution dealing with labour reform are not enforceable by courts. These offer only guidelines. Thus Article 38(2) suggests that the state should “minimize the inequalities in income”. That suggests need to enforce a difference of less than one to fifty between the highest and lowest emolument in every unit. Article 41 suggests the right to work for which the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) was passed. Though the scheme is very well conceived Rural Development Minister Mr. Nitin Gadkari has pointed out huge flaws in its implementation which need to be rectified. For MGNREGA to really succeed sectors of employment must be identified that conform to the nation’s development agenda. It must also be ensured that jobs are productive and not merely a device to distribute doles.
Article 43A suggests “participation of workers in the management of undertakings”. This writer had outlined the concept of the Workers’ Sector of industry in which following Mahatma Gandhi’s plea for cooperatives workers would participate in ownership, profit and floor level management of industry. At one point of time leading politicians cutting across parties had endorsed the Workers’ Sector concept. Amul and Mother Dairy offered models to emulate.
In short, Mr. Modi has started very well. Now he will have to carry forward the process of labour reforms with insightful legislation and new policies. Economic growth and social justice depend on it. Hopefully his zeal and commitment will never slacken.