A welfare state must protect everybody's rights
Employee's in an ideal society
After the Independence of India, it was obligatory to augment the ‘Industrial growth’ for generating more job opportunities; so the large scale industries, especially public sectors were established. This idea was the brainchild of the then Prime Minister Shri Jawaharlal Nehru as he was under the influence of countries like Russia and others. So maximum investment was steered in direction of industrial growth. On the other hand Gandhiji advocated the development of villages and agriculture where country’s 70 per cent population resided, with the dignified endeavour to meet the livelihood of villagers. But it was being neglected which in turn resulted into the evacuation of villages and migration to cities. The formation of ‘slum culture’ is the result of it. This mistake was ameliorated in the 3rd Five Year Plan by giving specific importance to agriculture.
However, due to the drawbacks of the then industrial policy, ‘New Industrial Policy’ was introduced in 1991 (also known as ‘New Economic Policy’), whose prime focus was Liberalisation, Privatisation, and Globalisation (popularly known as LPG) for the development of trade and business thereby increasing the employment opportunities. But with the passage of time; this came as boomerang and recession of America added fuel to the fire.
Job oriented production could not take place and this adversely impacted the employees directly. Many factories were closed down which led to closure and retrenchment. Many employees joined the bandwagon of unemployment which traumatised the unity among the workers. Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS), which was de-facto Compulsory Retirement Scheme (CRS) only, came into existence. Economic crisis and unemployment nurtured many social and psychological evils. According to International Labour Organisation, Geneva, ‘This is development but jobless’.
On the other hand, Central and State governments enacted many laws for the employees but the maximum benefits were taken by the industrialists. Laws were there but only on paper. There was provision of due sentence but to cut a safe way the penalty was brought in. This was being misused by many; so law breakers were not afraid of the officers. So all the Central Labour Unions voiced against the removal of punishment or penalty, however the results are nil. Moreover departments are short of officers and staff. New appointments are not permitted since many years. No recruitment has been made after the retirement of staff. Many posts have been removed after the implementation of new Central and State Pay Commission from time to time; this has impacted the administration badly. New laws have been formed for unorganised labours. But the new staff members are not appointed to get the fruits of this and the remaining staff takes the excessive load of work that impacts the quality of work and we do not get the expected results. Though there is ample provision in the system, both the laws and administration get defamed and sometimes the officers are being questioned and looked at from skeptical point of view in the execution of laws.
As a result, the situation of the employees has worsened. Exploitation has increased. The number of permanent employee is decreasing. Central and State Governments, Public Enterprises, and Private Sectors get their work done through outsourcing or ‘Staff on Contract’. This system has resulted in situation which is worse than the worst. Such employees/workers have been exploited and are deprived of their rights. Even the permanent positions of jobs are filled in on contract basis. Though “The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act-1970” to shield the workers has been in existence for more than forty years to ameliorate the working conditions and to remove the ‘contract’ to some extent, the very essence of this enactment has been marred. Central and State Governments are supposed to follow the provisions of Act but they don’t. Instead of preventing the exploitation of the workers, all the bureaucrats do exploit them. Contract based appointment for 11 months, fixed salary for 3 to 5 years, to deprive of the leaves and other benefits except the Casual Leaves, to get the work done form the workers of contractor on all the permanent posts, to enforce the private companies to pay minimum wages and in case of breaking the rule there is a possibility of Criminal Case and Penalty. Even in case of governments, they also don’t pay as per the law of minimum wages. Yet no actions are taken against such authorities. There are many such incidents where unfair labour practice is observed.
After such a prolonged deliberation, workers always anticipate that steps would be taken in their favour by Central and State Government for ‘A Welfare State’. Even Indian culture has been enveloping such virtues and it is being reflected in a Sanskrit couplet the translation of which is as follows:
“Let all people be happy and healthy;
Let all be blessed and no one gets any pain or suffering.”
Apart from this, even in ‘Sukra-Niti’; ‘Su-Rajya’ (An ideal state) is being imagined and the things to be taken care of when the staff members work in an organisation:
It was being pondered over on labour/ labour related issues in ancient India in detail. Bonus, EPF, Gratuity, Compensation, and Employment to the Dependent, Holidays were well thought out issues by our great sages and intellectuals. Issues like types of salary, behaviour of the person making the payment and the impact of less wages on employees’ consciousness and policy formation were discussed.
Owners’ behaviour must be descent with employees. Misbehave may turn employees into enemies of the company or employer. Employee’s descent conduct, modest language with workers and their respect for good work by owners tie strong bond of long lasting relations. It was said that as regard to the nature of persons those who crave for money only is to be considered as adham and those who want money and respect both are termed as madhyama and those who want respect only are termed as uttam. That employee is honoured and respected and never leaves his owner. Sri Ram was the best patron and the most trustworthy king for his people. Because of his virtues, the monkeys also accepted to serve Sri Ram. So virtues of life are obligatory for good governance. The reference of promotion is also found in Sukra-Niti. As the employee march ahead in his quality of work and experience, then he is required to be given promotions.
The comprehensive detail, mentioned earlier, nicely puts forward the significance of ‘labour/work’ even in our ancient holy scriptures. Due care was taken in write-up of ancient time’s ‘Sukra-Niti’ in showing the importance of affinity between owner and worker. To shield the constitutional rights of employees by the owner was always anticipated.
Thus, one can very well observe from the above that there were ample provisions for protection of rights of both labour and employer and the balance was maintained, even during ancient times in India.
Management today also values the urgent needs of Human Capital and Resources and the earlier Personal Department is being replaced with Human Resource Department (HRD). Employees are entitled to get all the rights and they are accountable for their assigned duties and responsibilities. With the formation of HRD, the use of memo, charge sheet, departmental inquiry, suspension or termination has decreased remarkably. Smooth functioning in office/department is the precursor of healthy practices of administration. This also has played decisive role in lessening of ‘Industrial Disputes’ and this promises an optimist outlook.
International Labour Organisation, Geneva defines ‘Decent Work’ and has given guidelines of good employer. Employers and administrators must comprehend the ways to govern the people and to understand the employees’ expectations in consideration of observing and implementing the laws of constitution in following way:
1. Minimum wage/salary
2. Social security
3. Service condition and Job security
4. Green technology
5. Green employment
If due attention is paid to these points then ways of industrial peace and development are infinite. Good Management and Governance are welcomed and honoured.
So if we brood over above mentioned points of ‘Welfare State’ then following points can be inferred for its effectiveness:
Today there are nearly 93 per cent workers who not united and only 7 per cent are united so to bring all (workers in construction work and other unorganised workers) beneath shelter of unity an apt mechanism is essential to be established by taking into consideration the laws of 2008.
It is obligatory for the government to provide employment to workers. Many workers are jobless. This is required to be accepted and steps for generating employment are required to be taken. All payments to be made to workers should be done through cheques in their respective bank accounts.
It is of no use to think of social security when government is not able to pay minimum wages to workers. It is the pressing need of the time to implement the laws of social security. Laws regarding PF, ESI, Gratuity, Accidental claim, Death on duty/work place, Maternity leave, Child labour, Migrant labour, Unorganised labours/labours in construction work and so on must be implemented in spirit too. Benefits of leaves to the workers must be given as per the Shops & Establishments Act and Factories Act and other laws in force.
Central and State Governments must lift the ban on new appointments right away and must commence the appointment procedure. The appointment on fixed salary, contractual jobs on 3/5 years basis with Rs 2/3/4,500 without any other facilities must be converted to regular appointments and then ‘equal work for equal wage’ must be employed. To get the work done at the low rate than the minimum wages/salary is ‘unfair labour practice’ that ‘exploits workers’ and it must be stopped for configuration of ‘An Idyllic Welfare State’.
The imperative thing is to ban ‘contract system’. Any work in any form (whether direct or indirect) on contract labour should be prohibited. Honorable Supreme Court has also ordered to amend Section 10 of Contract Labour Act which must be amended immediately. Over and above this, recently on 01/09/2011, Honorable Supreme Court gave a verdict in the matter of Bhilwara Milk Producing Cooperative Ltd against Vinodkumar Sharma and ORS which must be read. Maximum use of ‘contract system’ is done by Central and State Governments which must be stopped and then they can instruct private organisations to do the same.
‘Special Economic Zone’ is a modern day nuisance and works independently irrespective of abiding by any law. To give free hands to owners or the industrialists is also an exploitation of labour/workers which is necessitated to be pondered over.
The balance should be equally tilted in favour of both the employers and employees and not in favour of any one.
To infer, we can say that a ‘Welfare State’ always acknowledges the prospects and desires of employees. Consequently we ought to create ‘A Model State’ which can emerge as good administrator/administration and it begins with ‘SELF’. We have to eradicate all the activities which are against the workers. The same can be anticipated from all the private organisations that fit in definition of ‘Welfare State’.
I am happy to note a few lines sent to me on New Year. They are:
“Want to start new, have to leave old
Want to do good, have to forget bad
Want to be friends, leave enemies
Want to succeed, put in indefatigable efforts.”
(The writer is Former National President, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh).