Accusing the Centre of diluting labour laws using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse, seven political parties jointly wrote a a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday registering their protest over the issue.
The workers are being treated as slaves, said the letter signed by CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D Raja, CPI (ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattarcharya, All India Forward Bloc general secretary Debabrata Biswas, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) general secretary Manoj Bhattacharya, RJD MP Manoj Jha and Viduthalai Chiruthaigal president Katchi Thol Thirumavalavan.
"Reducing them to this status is not merely a violation of the Constitution but its nullification," they said. Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab have extended working hours from eight to 12 without amending the Factories Act. The parties raised a concern that the others states are likely to join this list.
Uttar Pradesh has exempted factories, businesses, establishments and industries from the purview of all, but three labour laws and one provision of another Act for three years. The Madhya Pradesh government too announced exemption of all establishments from obligations under all labour laws for a period of thousand days.
The parties said the Indian economy was already in a tailspin hurtling towards a recession even before the outbreak of this pandemic.
The government has done little to help those who lost their livelihood. Fourteen crore workers have lost their jobs since the lockdown began, they said.
"Diluting labour rights seems to be the logic employed by 'your government' at the Centre and by some state governments, rather than concentrating on fighting the pandemic by augmenting our health facilities and protecting our doctors and health workers and taking care of the people's requirements," the letter stated.