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From Baghdad to Bolangir – Labour Laws in India: Saba Sharma

Guest post by SABA SHARMA

From the crisis in Iraq, a story is emerging of 40 construction workers in Mosul who have gone missing, some reports claim because they were trying to escape from the city and were captured by militants in the process. Many of these workers, feared kidnapped by ISIS, refused both their employers’ and the Indian government’s help to evacuate, as many have not been paid up to five months’ wages. Another report reveals that a group of 46 nurses from Kerala, working in a hospital in Tikrit, have refused to leave despite an offer from Delhi to help them evacuate. They need the money, as do their families back at home, so they would rather move to a safe zone in Iraq than return. Two nurses in the same hospital, who are on holiday in India, told the BBC that they would return despite the travel advisory issued by India advising citizens not to travel to Iraq. For them, failing to return means defaulting on loans taken to pay recruitment agents.

A few days before, on June 16, the NDA government announced that it was looking at liberalizing labour laws, primarily to make easier the retrenchment of workers. The UPA, and former PM Manmohan Singh in particular, also had labour law reform as an agenda, propelled by constant laments from industry saying ‘obsolete’ labour laws hindering growth and holding back the economy. The Vansundhara Raje government is already amending some state-level acts in Rajasthan to ‘liberate the corporate sector from the shackles of stringent requirements of the laws’, as one report put it.

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