West Bengal will never alter the existing labour laws in the wake of the coronavirus-triggered lockdown, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asserted on Wednesday, while criticising the BJP-ruled states that have brought about changes to such regulations and "jeopardised" workers' job security.
Banerjee said there will be no quick relief from COVID-19 in the near future and the key to revival for the state's economy lies in strengthening the infrastructure of rural Bengal.
"We have come across reports that some BJP-ruled states have either suspended labour laws or tweaked them. The employees and labourers in those states would work more but get paid less, they will not have any job security.
"We do not support this and would never take such a step. We will follow the existing labour laws and ensure that the migrant labourers returning to the state can be employed here. The government can employ them under the 100-days-work scheme (MGNREGA)," she said, addressing a video-conference on the COVID-19 situation.
Banerjee's comments come in the backdrop of states such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh announcing suspension of certain labour laws with the objective to assist businesses recoup from the coronavirus blow.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo said steps should be taken to restart the MGNREGA in West Bengal and adjust the man days that were lost due to the nationwide lockdown since March 25, while strictly adhering to social-distancing norms.
"I think the revival of the state economy lies in rural Bengal. We have to strengthen the rural economy. In the days to come, this will be the roadmap for the entire country," she said.
"There is no need to be worried about COVID-19. We will overcome it. But life cannot come to a halt because of this disease," the chief minister added.
Slamming a section of BJP leaders for "instigating" communal clashes in the state, she asked the district administrations and police personnel to take stern action against those found guilty.
"Strict action will be taken against those involved in communal clashes amid the lockdown. No one will be spared if found guilty of fomenting trouble," Banerjee said, referring to the violence that erupted in Hooghly district last week.
Amid the controversy over the rationing system in West Bengal, the TMC boss asked the officials concerned to ensure that there are no complaints regarding the public distribution system (PDS).
She also advised the district administrations to take precautionary measures against dengue, keeping in mind the approaching monsoon.