ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Race to the Bottom

The Modi government's labour policy seeks to remove workers' protection to increase business competitiveness.

The cabinet of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Vasundhara Raje-led Government of Rajasthan is being hailed in the media for having taken the lead in clearing amendments to the union labour law – the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970, and the Factories Act, 1948. The amendments are reportedly scheduled to be introduced in the state assembly and are expected to be implemented soon after. Vasundhara Raje is also reported to have claimed that this measure will “creat[e] a habitat for job creation”. The commercial media has, of course, gone gaga over the move, claiming that it would “liberate the corporate sector from the shackles of stringent requirements of the laws”. These laws, neo-liberal economists and the representatives of business have long argued, “are holding back job creation in the country”.

The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the centre has now initiated a “fresh review” of the country’s labour laws in order to tailor them to the requirements of the National Manufacturing Policy (NMP) unveiled by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in 2011. (Of course, the Gujarat government was a pioneer in amending the Industrial Disputes Act in its application in the state’s special economic zones (SEZs), allowing lay-offs of “redundant workers” in all units, without the requirement of seeking government permission.) India’s NMP aims at increasing the share of the manufacturing sector in the gross domestic product (GDP) from 15%-16% to 25% by 2022 and creating 100 million additional jobs by that year through the setting up of National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZs). The latter are conceived of as industrial clusters in the form of “integrated industrial townships with the state-of-the-art infrastructure” developed through the public-private partnership mode.

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