By Krishna Jha
On March 28, it was the birthday of Maxim Gorky who had said, “Till a single baby in the world cries of hunger, I can not rest…” In one sentence, he defined a writer, who lives for the cause of humanity and writes without fear. But it is not the writer alone who shares the life and fights against the injustices, it is all those too who sacrifice their lives for the human cause, toiling all along with the suffering masses. We remember them today once again as May Day is approaching when the struggle for eight-hour working day reached its culmination and we won the right in 1889.After a century and almost a quarter, that right has been taken back. We have labour code today demolishing all the rights for the toiling masses that were achieved after long struggles and sacrifices. Now jobs are scarce, working hours are limitless, salaries are reduced, and all that if one has a job.
It was not very long ago when each one of us spent sleepless nights as thousands of starving men, women, children and old people walked for days and nights towards their roots in search of food, though they realised soon that it was a mirage they were running after, and came back, to a world where being alive itself was turning into an unwanted burden.
Now first bout of Covid 19 is over and new one has entered, though without the consequent lockdown. A new negative turn has been creeping in with unemployment, starvation, ailments, deprivations as its features. There are almost no jobs available.
As the Periodic Labour Force Surveys (PLFS), brought out its first report that could be available now only for the months of April-June of 2020, estimating the quarter, which went through the horrendous ordeal when the lockdown was in force, followed by the estimates of loss of lives that kept slowly trickling in.
Unemployment is rapidly growing. In February, 2021, it had gone up from 6.53 percent in the previous month to 6.9 percent according to latest data released by private Think Tank Centre for monitoring Indian economy (CMIE). The 30-day moving average of unemployment rate was seven percent as of February 28, 2021 CMIE data showed. In fact in the 15-29 age group, it was almost zero percent in the Pandemic days.
The unemployment rate has been volatile in the last six months as it has shown a low of 6.5 percent in November 2020 to a high of 9.1 percent in December 2020. The average unemployment rate during the six months shows a high of 7.4 percent. The volatility changing every month in unemployment data, shows the high proportion of informal employment in the country.
As the new definition of wages under the new labour code will have a high share of social security of compensation packages, there would be lesser take home salary for the employees. According to this new definition, as per the code of wages, 2019, wage has to comprise at least fifty percent of the salary the employee is getting. The restructuring would lead to lesser take home and a higher contribution to retirement fund and it may bring a change in the basic wage as well as the tax liability.
For Provident Funds (PF) and gratuity, their contribution would be hiked further. All these steps are taken without any consultation with those who are at the receiving end. There would be no bonus, no provident fund, no conveyance allowance, HRA, overtime, no gratuity, commission, retrenchment compensation. The rules under new labour code would be implemented from first April this year just one month prior to May Day.
According to wage code brought in 2019, wages would include three components, basic salary (inflation linked), dearness allowance, and retention payment.
Then there is contraction in the economy with decline in the growth rate as the economic activity has gone down by 24 percent. The ordeal is still far from over. The loss of livelihood is still haunting the labour force, not that having jobs would resolve much. In fact more reports are trickling down from private sources about the eroding impact of receding economic process. There is an impression about the return to normalcy that we had in pre-Covid days, but there is no denial to the fact that unemployment is growing at a devastating rate. Its level, overstaying even after the Pandemic days, shows that the economic process that was followed in last several years without generating jobs has taken a turn to creating political instability. In fact we have arrived at a stage when for growth, capital is primary and labour is much down the ladder. (IPA Service)