Lucknow: The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has brought in an ordinance exempting businesses from all key labour laws for the next three years.
According to Labour Minister Swami Prasad Maurya, only three labour laws will be applicable in the state during this period apart from provisions related to children and women in the suspended laws.
The three include the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996, Workmen Compensation Act, 1923, and the Bonded Labour Act, 1976. Section 5 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 (the right to receive timely wages) will also apply in the state during this period.
The decision to approve the Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020, to exempt factories, businesses, establishments and industries from the purview of the laws, was taken on Wednesday in a Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
The step is aimed at reviving and boosting various businesses and industries that have taken a hit due to the national lockdown, a UP government spokesman said.
In his statement to the media, Maurya said the Covid-19 pandemic had brought economic and industrial activity to a standstill. “To bring economic activities back on track, new industrial investments opportunities will have to be created,” he said. “The state needs to take steps to bring the economy back on track. That is why this step has been taken.”
According to Maurya, there are 38 laws regulating the labour sector of which 35 have been suspended for three years.
Opposition, activists slam move
The government’s decision has, however, drawn flak from the opposition as well as activists, with critics saying it infringes on worker rights.
UP Congress chief Ajay Lallu Thursday said the Adityanath government has betrayed workers by bringing in the ordinance.
“Now surely there will be insecurity in the minds of workers. They may not get proper wages and allowances due to this ordinance,” he told ThePrint. “Who will be responsible for it? Will CM Yogi guarantee workers their wages?”
Samajwadi Party MLA Udaiveer Singh termed the ordinance as an act of arbitrariness. “This ordinance is anti-labour. How can one exempt any industry from all key labour laws?”
The UP-based labour law advocate Kashinath Mishra said important labour laws will no longer apply in the state after this ordinance. “The minimum wages act is one important labour law that will not apply. How will labourers get the pay they deserve?”
Several other important labour laws will also become defunct. According to Mishra, laws related to trade unions, settling industrial disputes, occupational safety, health and working conditions of workers and contract labour act will not apply. Even laws related to payment of bonuses and provident funds are now defunct.
“How will workers ask for compensation, reimbursements, PF etc. Majdoors will become more majboor,” he added.
UP Congress legal cell incharge advocate Ganga Singh said this is an attack on labour. “After this ordinance, there will be no social security, health security and fund security of labour,” he said. “Is the government helping labourers and workers or planning to make their life more tough?”
CM had called for extensive plan for migrants
The ordinance comes days after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath directed officials to prepare an extensive action plan for employment of migrants. He had said workers should be linked to MGNREGA and other government schemes.
He had also said the youth seeking jobs under MGNREGA will be immediately given job cards in their respective village. “Lakhs of migrants have returned from different states. It’s not easy to provide them employment as industries are already at a loss. So the government decided to provide concessions to them,” a government official said.
Sources, however, told ThePrint that the government was not keen on highlighting the labour ordinance. The ordinance was passed on the same day that the government had brought in the Epidemic Disease Control Ordinance 2020, which deals with attacks on frontline workers fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
The sources said the government wanted only the Epidemic Disease Control Ordinance to be highlighted because of which government ministers and spokespersons had since Wednesday been only talking about the new law to protect Covid-19 personnel.