By Dr. Gyan Pathak
There is no secret now. Modi government has now brazenly said in the Parliament of India that the Centre has no plans to develop National Employment Policy (NEP). It has raised its veil from its true face on this issue ever since it came to power in 2014. Even till recently officials of the Union Ministry of Labour have been generating hopes among people by reportedly briefing the media that the government intends to bring the National Employment Policy in 2022 or latest by the Union Budget session 2023. However, the Centre has now turned its back.
The Union Ministry of Labour and Employment has said in response to questions raised by Lok Sabha MP Beesetti Venkata Satyavathi amid the ongoing monsoon session in Parliament that at present, there is no committee for drafting of NEP and there is no plan on developing it. “At present, there is no committee for drafting of National Employment Policy. However, for evidence-based policy making, the government has launched surveys on both demand and supply side,” the Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Rameswar Teli said in the response.
It may be recalled that the 45th session of the Indian Labour Conference was held on May 17-18, 2013 in which the issue of unemployment came for discussion, and following consultations among the representatives of workers’ and employers’ organizations and Central and State government, the Committee on Measures to Improve Employment and Employability had recommended that the National Employment Policy be finalized as a matter of priority. Since the ILC is the highest body in the country for labour policies, everybody was hopeful that the Union Government would make an NEP for the benefit of the unemployed which was long overdue, especially at a time when the unemployment rate in the country was as high as 4.7 per cent in the year 2012-13 as per the Labour Bureau Survey Report of the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment. It was considered too high at that time, and everyone was criticizing the UPA government led by the Congress. Modi, as prime ministerial candidate has also been criticizing the high level of unemployment and hence going on promising ‘work with dignity for all hands’ during his election campaigns.
Modi won the election and came to power in May 2014. He had promised 10 million jobs every year during his initial election campaigns and then shifted to the promise of providing ‘jobs for all hands with dignity’ which was interpreted as 20 million jobs that were needed to give jobs to all unemployed in the country. However, within a year of his rule he forgot his promise. The 46th session of the Indian Labour Conference was held in 2015, and the issue of making NEP was ignored. No session of the ILC has been held thereafter in the entire period of Modi rule.
Modi government has been claiming all along these years that is has been working for employment generation. However, not only rate of employment fell to its worst level in decades but also the unemployment rate that rose to become worst in independent India, as per available data which is still about 7.5 per cent. It is therefore unfortunate that Modi government does not plan to have an NEP. This revelation is shocking for the unemployed in the country at a time when there is joblessness among the workforce has made them miserable which is increasing day by day with rising prices and inflation.
On the other hand Modi government is going ahead the four controversial labour codes in the country which they say the biggest labour reform in independent India which is long overdue. In a different response to Lok Sabha, the Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment informed the parliament that around 24 states and Union Territories (UT) have pre-published the draft rules for four labour codes on social security, industrial relations, wages and occupational safety. The Centre had earlier invited all stakeholders for comments on the labour codes. Earlier this month, Union labour minister Bhupender Yadav had said almost all states have prepared draft rules on the labour codes and they will be implemented at an appropriate time.
The Centre had notified the Code on Wages, 2019, on August 8, 2019; the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, the Code on Social Security, 2020, and the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 on September 29, 2020. Since then several implementation deadlines have been missed due to inherent difficulties in their implementation, the recent being July 1. The CTUs call these codes anti-labour and pro-corporate and has gone for three general strikes in the country since these were passed in the Parliament of India, and preparing themselves for stiffer opposition and long struggle against these codes demanding these to be scraped. They fear that the code will not only increase the level of unemployment making the workforce vulnerable for modern day slavery, a condition in which no question of full social security coverage will be possible.
Since labour is in the concurrent list of the Constitution of India, States and UTs too need their own rules, but many of them are still not ready with them. The earlier alibi was the COVID-19 crisis, but now it has been said by several states that they are undergoing moral difficulties in framing rules. Kerala government has even said that though they have made the rules they find most of the provisions of the codes anti-labour. West Bengal, Rajasthan, and several Northeastern states are among a dozen states not ready with the rules.
The codes have been brought without consultation with stakeholders like CTUs and the highest tripartite body ILC. Even government supported BMS is not in agreement with all the provisions and they want review of at least two of the codes. Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) had also made recommendations against these four in favour of more comprehensive on labour code after removing all discrepancies in various labour laws. Employers associations have also expressed their concerns. In the present complexity of the situation the Ministry of Labour and Employment have now offered to review some of the provisions, but still intend to implement the codes. (IPA Service)