What We Speak of When We Speak of Labour Laws

Indian Policy Collective announces a series on the extremely polarised Labour Law debate.

One of the biggest policy debates taking place right now involves the watering down of or, in the case of Uttar Pradesh, suspension of labour laws by Indian states. Ostensibly this has been done in order to attract investment and provide a boost to economic activity. We will be carrying a series of pieces in order to give you a fuller picture of both sides of the extremely polarised debate. 

First up, a short explanation of what we speak of when we speak of labour laws -

1) Labour is a concurrent list subject. The concurrent list or List III is a list of 52 items in the seventh schedule of the Constitution that can be considered both by the states and the central government. So, both can make laws on these matters. 

2) What is referred to as labour laws in India is a collection of nearly 200 pieces of legislations across states and 40 odd laws passed by the central government. https://labour.gov.in/list-enactments-ministry

3) These laws can roughly be divided into 4 tranches - Those concerning (i) Wages (ii) Industrial Relations (iii) Social Security and Welfare and (iv) Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions. 

4) The UP government has passed the Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020 that exempts factories, businesses, and industries from all except three central labour laws for the next three years. 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 continue to apply. 

5)  Other states including Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have also substantially watered down labour laws citing the need for economic revival. 

In subsequent pieces, we will examine arguments in favour of this move and against it. 

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