Cautioning states against diluting labour laws, Azim Premji, founder of Indian software services provider Wipro Ltd, has said the nationwide lockdown imposed to arrest the spread of coronavirus was particularly harsh on the economically vulnerable and they must be protected from further adversity.
In an article in Economic Times, Premji said it was “shocking to hear that various state governments, encouraged by businesses, are considering suspending — or have already suspended — many of the labor laws that protect workers”.
He added that the migrants who were “fending for themselves” have “almost no social security and too little — not too much — worker protection”.
Several states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have called for easing labour laws to push an ailing economy worsened by coronavirus.
Migrant workers have been the worst hit due to the lockdown imposed by the government to control the spread of coronavirus, which has infected nearly 86,000 people in the country so far. Migrants have been walking several kilometres in the scorching sun along with their families to get back home as the lockdown has snatched their source of income.
Reports of many of them dying due to exhaustion or road accidents have also become an everyday affair. On Saturday, 24 labourers were killed and over 35 injured when two trucks collided in UP. In another incident, five workers were killed when the truck they were travelling in from Maharashtra to UP overturned in MP.
The labor laws being considered for suspension relate to settling industrial disputes, occupational safety, health and working conditions of workers, and those related to minimum wages, trade unions, contract workers, and migrant laborers, Premji wrote.
“It will only exacerbate the conditions of low wage workers and the way we do business and industry,” he said, adding that the need of the hour was to scale up the existing rural employment guarantee program and introduce an urban employment guarantee plan.
Not just Premji, industry titan Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto Ltd., has criticised the way India handled the lockdown, calling the extension “piecemeal, arbitrary and erratic.”.