In this final instalment of the series, I want to discuss the vexed question of employment and what can be called the ’employment mindset’. The mindset has dominated politics and the discipline of economics for the last century and a half for sure. Before that youthful capitalism simply put people uprooted from their habitats and traditional occupations (the artisans and peasants) into ‘poor houses’ and enacted the most vicious laws to force the dispossessed poor work for it. Marxists give this violent pillage the scientific- sounding name of ‘primitive accumulation’ (or primary accumulation). ‘Scientific’ because it was seen by Marx as the ‘historical process of the separation of producer from “his” means of production’ – as if it was an objective process that was in some sense inevitable. Marx’s chapter on ‘primitive accumulation’ in Capital Vol I, certainly shows that he was revolted by the plunder and robbery that this phenomenon entailed but in a manner of speaking, by giving it an aura of historical inevitability, he could displace the solution to some future. There is also no doubt that the sections of Capital where Marx deals with the enactment of Poor Laws in Britain are full of passion and anger at what capitalism was doing – but then, what can you do with a process that is historically inevitable? Remember too that it was the same logic of ‘objectivity’ of ‘historical inevitability’ that was used to justify colonialism as the ‘unconscious tool of history’. The British Marxist historian, E.P. Thompson wrote of precisely these populations that perished in ‘the storm of industrialization’. He was so moved by their predicament that he wanted to ‘rescue them from the enormous condescension of posterity’. Yet, Thompson believed, like a good Marxist, that the artisan or the handloom weaver that he was writing about were ‘obsolete’ (Thompson’s term). Thus, he wrote, Continue reading Beyond the ‘Employment’ Paradigm and Life After Capitalism – Manifesto of Hope IV→
In March this year, the Ministry for Labour and Employment unveiled the third of its series of Labour Codes aimed at simplifying and rationalizing the labour laws. The Draft Labour Code on Social Security has been placed in the public domain and comments and suggestions have been invited in respect of its provisions. The Draft Code is ambitious in scope and amalgamates the provisions of 15 central labour laws relating to social security. Continue reading The Draft Labour Code on Social Security-Workers’ Concerns: Ramapriya Gopalakrishnan→
This May Day comes at a very crucial juncture in our history. Crucial, not simply because there is a belligerent Hindu Right government in power but also because it comes in the wake of the most unprecedented belligerence of the upper castes and their all-round violence, especially on the Dalit communities across the land. Last year we had witnessed the most shameful incident of violence in the flogging of four Dalit youth by the cow gangs of Hindutva, which was followed by massive protests by Dalits and joined in by other sections of people, including some of the Left forces, as well. The attack had to do with the very specific form/s of labour that Dalit communities have been made to traditionally perform in Hindu society, in this case, the work of disposing of carcasses of dead animals, skinning them and so on. Continue reading Thinking Labour in Contemporary India – For a Different May Day Agenda→
The following is the text of the report released by the Fact Finding Committee that investigated the issue of lay-offs at the Tata Consultancy Services. The committee, which released its report on 6 February in Chennai, consisted of the following members:
Mr. BRP. Bhaskar, Senior Journalist and Human Rights Activist, Thiruvananthapuram;
Dr. M.Vijayabaskar, Assistant Professor, MIDS, Chennai;
Adv. Bobby Kunhu, Legal Expert, Salem;
Ms. Chandrika Radhakrishnan, Software Professional and Labour Rights Activist, Chennai
For some months now, I have been thinking of someone whom I saw on television during the parliamentary election campaign. The place was Benaras and Modi’s candidature from the seat had just been declared. The television journalist was interviewing a group of clearly poor people, taking their reactions on this new, though expected development. This person, fairly drunk in his Modi-elixir – and perhaps also a bit literally drunk – swaggered as he answered, affirming his support for Modi: Modi bhi chaiwala hai, hum bhi chaiwala hain (Modi is also a tea-seller and I am also a tea-seller). His words reflected the success of the remarkable gamble – that of projecting the new poster boy of corporate capital as a humble tea-seller. It was clear how so many of the poor had bought into this campaign.
What reminded me of this person initially, was that very soon after the election results were out, even before the government was formed, ‘team Modi’ announced a series of measures for the development of Benaras, which included the building of 60 flyovers – ‘to ease traffic congestion’. Mainly meant for the benefit of smooth flow of motorized traffic (rikshas, cycles and pedestrians, after all, have little place in the economy of the flyover), this was the beginning of a plan that would transform this holy city. If the experience of building flyovers anywhere in India is any experience, this would additionally mean mass demolition of settlements of the poor, shops and even entire informal markets – including tea shops that have long been part of life of local communities.
Then the government took office. Within a couple of months, the plan for Varanasi’s upgradation started being drawn up more concretely. Not everything in the proposed subsequent plan (end July 2014) seemed objectionable -not the least the idea to work on a possible mono rail, improvement of the bus network, and a Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) like the one in Ahmedabad. Except that this would mean more and more dislocation of the poor and destruction of their livelihoods. We have seen this happen in city after city in India, including in Delhi. Continue reading ‘Make in India’ – Modi’s War on the Poor→
The lexicon of this election is very different. Some things are being said in coded language while for others, a new language is being invented. Hindutva is repackaged and reworded with suffixes like ‘constitutional boundaries’ and anti-women, anti-dalit, anti-tribal, anti-minority and anti-poor development agenda is being openly articulated as a model that works. The latest in this frenzy about newer ways of framing things is a coinage about policy decisions, especially policy decisions that have been made in the past by the elected governments of this country (See for instance, A game changing reform strategy, Arvind Panagriya’s, TOI special op-ed, April 5, 2014).
The two key policy decisions of the UPA namely, the Industrial Disputes Act and, the Land Ceiling Act, are viewed by Mr. Panagriya as a catastrophe fallen on the Indian people who are now “condemned to forever live with our past sins”. Why do only labour and land laws, which impact the vast majority of the working classes and the peasantry of this country, become ‘sinful’? Why living with primitive judicial system or uncivilized AFPSA or dark age 377, low tax rate laws and so many others are not equivalent to living with past sins? The irony of 2014 elections, it appears, is that there is no need to specify one’s vantage point. It is the point. The author’s confidence does not end here. His argument goes on further to say that if anyone disagrees i.e. if the provinces disagree with this definition of sins, then make them fall in line by redefining the federal structure. Continue reading All About So-called Sins and the Game Plan: Atul Sood→
This guest post is a statement by NEW PATH, a collective of people, mostly from backgrounds in social movements and mass organisations, who have been discussing how the work of people’s struggle and revolutionary transformation can be taken forward in the Indian context. Those discussions led to the decision to found a new organisation, tentatively called “New Path”.
Below is the draft manifesto, sent to us by friends associated with the initiative. It is being circulated for comments, criticism, suggestions and observations. New Path does not aim to be a traditional revolutionary party. Rather, it seeks to be a political formation that seeks out opportunities, through struggle, to weaken bourgeois hegemony in this country. Continue reading Manifesto of a New Initiative: Statement by New Path→
VEENA VENUGOPAL writes: Saw the ad about the horrible boss? The one in which the employee comes in with a new idea and in return he gets a load of sarcasm? And even when the boss likes the idea, he reveals it with an air of impudent superiority. Seen that one? What was it called? Hari Sadu?
Well, no. This ad is for a new brand of cookies; Gold Star, it is called. A male “attendant”/“peon”/“employee” comes in to a plush white room and serves a plate of cookies to Amitabh Bachchan. On biting into one, he realizes these are not his regular cookies. “Arre suno,” he calls because come on, he isn’t expected to know the name of all the people who serve him cookies at home. The employee admits they are new. “Maine socha ki…” (I thought…) he says at which Bachchan rolls his eyes and says, “aaj kal aap sochne bhi lag gaye?” (you have even started thinking now?). But then he realizes he likes the new ones and instructs the man, “ayenda yeh sochna band karo,” (please stop thinking in the future). Continue reading We are all Hari Sadu: Veena Venugopal→
‘The ending of the film was shown properly,’ speak unanimous voices, the well-known folklore of Wasseypur, Dhanbad, ‘Gangster Shafiq Khan was really gunned down at the Topchachi petrol pump like it was shown in the first part of the film.’
Each morning, factory hooters call out to India’s 50 million industrial workers, many of whom stand by their stations and repeat a single set of tasks with unerring regularity until the hooter sounds again to signal the end of the first shift and the start of another. Manufacturing provides employment to just 11 percent of India’s workforce, but the sector and its workers are seen as a bellwether for the economy as a whole.
Last week, a senior general manager in Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant was killed and several managers injured in a violent confrontation between workers and management, prompting national dailies to speak of the “bad old days of militant trade unionism”. Yet, industrial unrest is at historic lows in terms of numbers of incidents and man-days lost. In 1973-74, nearly 3,00,000 strikes were called just prior to the Emergency; 2010 saw just 429 such incidents, according to data from the V.V. Giri National Labour Institute.
What accounts for this shift? Has the Indian factory become a safer, better-paid and more secure workplace?
Data suggests the opposite: Today, Indian workers are paid less in real terms than they were fifteen years ago, have less job security, and yet are less likely to strike. Workers in Haryana’s industrial belt suggest that the incident at Maruti Manesar signals the end of the all-powerful union capable of controlling the factory floor, rather than its return. Instead, industry’s reliance on casual workers has created informal leaderless networks that operate outside the framework of strikes and settlements that undergird union activity. Read more
The year-long industrial conflict at Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL), India’s largest automobile manufacturer’s Manesar plant turned violent on 18 July. At 3:30 pm on Wednesday afternoon, representatives from Maruti Suzuki Workers’ Union and the Maruti management had met to discuss the reinstatement of Jiya Lal, a permanent worker who had been suspended that morning after an altercation with his floor supervisor. Lal is a Dalit and alleges that he had reacted when the supervisor made derogatory casteist remarks against him. The workers were protesting that the management had been unfair, suspending Lal from service while merely sending the supervisor home on leave for a few days. Continue reading What set off the violence at Maruti’s Manesar plant?: Anumeha Yadav→
In last three weeks, over a thousand workers went on a rampage on the streets of Gurgaon in two separate incidents. On March 19,over 2000 workers from Orient Craft, India’s largest apparel-maker and exporter, attacked the office premises pelting stones at it and set 10 vehicles on fire, including a police van. They were reacting to the news that Naseem Ahmed a worker in his 20s in the hosiery unit in Sector 34 had been stabbed in the arm with a pair of scissors by Harinder ‘Lovely’ Singh, alabour contractor at Orient Craft. Continue reading Gurgaon workers – damned if they do, damned if they don’t: Anumeha Yadav→
For the Pilipino there was no escaping the Indian song and dance.
A tube-light flickered as loud music blared from a room at the far end of the corridor. The flickering light and the ensuing cacophony gave the corridor in Sonapur Labour Camp a surreal discotheque feel: one that the Pilipino was no longer game to. Nearer the door, voices of men dipped low and then travelled high past the room in which the tired labourer from Cebu lived.
“Oru Kili Iru Kili,” they bellowed in Malayalam and the tune filtered through the flimsy plywood door. The tired looking Pilipino pulled a face as he described the scene he had once encountered when the door was left ajar. The “party” room was clouded over with smoke and six Indian labourers from Kerala lounged cross-legged in a circle, smoking cigarettes and drinking from steel cups, writhing their bodies and shaking their hands up in the air. A bottle with no label was passed around and the brouhaha escalated to a feverish pitch. Once again the merry men burst out, “Oru Killi Iru Killi”. Continue reading Oru Kili Iru Kili – A Party in Dubai: Alia Allana→
More than 3000 Domestic Workers Take to the Jaipur Streets
SHARE THEIR WOES AND DEMAND RIGHTS
PUBLIC HEARING PANEL:
• Aditi Mehta (Principal Secretary Social Justice and Empowerment),
• Anuradha Talwar. Trade Union Activist, Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Sangathan, Kolkata
• Jose Mohan, DCP, Jaipur Police Commissionerate
• Bhagwan Sahai Sharma, member Secretary, State Social Welfare Board,
Domestic worker women power made history today in Jaipur when they took to the streets of Jaipur and demanded their rights from the State and society. We are not “naukranis” they said. We are workers in free India and want the dignity of being a worker. We run two homes, yours and ours, can any of you in society do without our labour, they asked boldly. Ninety percent were Bengally with abotu ten percent from who had come from different parts of Rajasthan. Continue reading Bengal Power in Jaipur: Kavita Srivastava→
The following is a statement issued by the MARUTI SUZUKI EMPLOYEES UNION (MSEU) on 1 September 2011
The management of Maruti Suzuki Industries Limited, Manesar plant (Plot 1, Phase 3A) has terminated 11 and suspended 38 workers on 29th and 30th August 2011, on completely fabricated charges of go-slow in production and that workers have been ‘undisciplined’. It is doing this as a continuation of harassing workers for our struggle for the right of Union formation and other legitimate rights from June 4th to 16th. It is using brute police force to intimidate us, and is also continuing to pay and use bouncers and lumpen force to continuously threaten us. The management is also spreading a rumour that the production has resumed yesterday 31 August through a handful of contract workers, some supervisors, engineers and robots. This disinformation campaign has also been splashed across the media.
Mohammed Ashraf is short and stubby, with a narrow but muscular chest and small, broad hands balanced on strong, flexible wrists. But Ashraf does not grudge the throw of the dice that has made him a safediwallah with a mazdoor’s body. A small man’s body can do things that a slenderchamak-challo cannot even contemplate.
A small man carries the ground close to him wherever he goes, even as he hangs along the side of a building three storeys high. The memory of the ground that allows him to crawl into crevices, perch on narrow ledges and balance on wobbly parapets. A short man knows the limits of his body, the extent of his reach, the exact position of his centre of balance. Unlike the tall man, he holds no illusions regarding his abilities or his dimensions; he will never overreach, overextend or overbalance.
It took 47 days of a protest sit-in in Jaipur to make the State budge. It’s notable that the objective of this protracted protest wasn’t to coerce the government for an extra share of State resources but to hold the government accountable to the Constitution and its own laws. The protest, “mazdoor haq satyagraha” was staged by workers employed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) to demand enforcement of their constitutional right to earn minimum wage. Even now after some initial encouraging signs, the matter seems to have stalled. Continue reading Democracy and the Politics Around NREGA: Ruchi Gupta→
New Delhi: While the Manmohan Singh government’s Left-free second innings is expected to usher in changes to India’s archaic labour laws, the labour ministry is working on a quick-fix solution to help drop the country’s notorious ‘inspector raj’ tag.
If all goes to plan, India Inc would no longer have to deal with labour inspectors turning up at their premises to check compliance with 43 central and myriad state labour legislations. Instead, firms can submit a certificate from a company secretary that validates their compliance with the numerous employment laws.
( The Indian Express, Vikas Dhoot, Posted: Wednesday, Aug 05, 2009 at 0137 hrs IST)
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh led government’s ‘left free second innings’ seems to be taking the battle against ‘archaic labour laws’ full steam ahead. The outgoing Union Labour Secretary, Ms Sudha Pillai, some time back shared with the media about the draft which is being prepared in the labour ministry to this effect.
The proposal, which would be shortly submitted in the form of a cabinet note, seeks to ‘permit company secretaries to file compliance reports for labour laws, just like they give compliance reports for other laws.’ As of now the role of the company secretary is limited to certifying the said firm’s compliance with various statues, which includes the companies act, 1956 and also the listing agreement with stock exchanges and the issue of compliance with labour laws is handled by the labour inspectors. Continue reading Company Secretary to Replace Inspector→
The right to work involves just and fair condition of employment, and also, protection against unemployment. It also entails access to employment without discrimination and a supportive structure that aids access, including appropriate and free choice, skill building and vocational education. However, the economic survey 2008-09 and the union budget 2009-10 demonstrate how the burning issue of job losses – retrenchment, lay off, redundancy – in times of global financial crisis and economic slowdown, are perhaps the least understood of the economic, social and political concerns. There are clear evidences that the job losses have worsened in many sectors in the recent past, posing a threat to the overall inclusive growth prospects, and are a challenge to continue successful poverty reduction efforts. Job insecurity in the country is on the rise and an expected decline in growth and investment is likely to exacerbate this problem. It is critically important to recognize the issue, and build a political will to tame anti-labour atmosphere and practices. Supportive structures should come with innovative policies and programmes. Continue reading Job Losses: A Reality Check→
Speaking of successful litigation, one day after what some may call the makings of India’s rainbow coalition celebrated the Delhi High Court’s final verdict in the Naz Foundation case, agricultural workers in Andhra Pradesh celebrated a favorable interim order in the APVVU (AP Agricultural Workers Union) case. Judge N.Ramamohana Rao of AP High Court ignored the Additional Solicitor General’s objections and ordered that the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme wage rates be revised up from Rs 80 per day to the prevailing minimum wage of Rs 119 (111 and 112 in some areas) per day set by the Government of Andhra Pradesh. This will remain in force for 8 weeks. Of course, a favorable interim order does not imply that the final verdict will be favorable. But it bolsters the confidence of the contestants. It is a precious gift of time for solidarity building. And in this particular case, it will put an additional amount of a whopping Rs 31-40 per each of the 100 work days in a year in the hands of those availing work under the NREGA. It did not bring tears to the eyes, but in a general clime of judicial unresponsiveness to the claims of the poor it made many heave a sigh of relief. Continue reading Speaking of litigation: Anant Maringanti→
Activist Working for Rights of Tribal People Arrested
Ms Shamim (nee Meghani) Modi, a law graduate working among the tribals in Betul district, Madhya Pradesh, has had to pay a heavy price for taking up the cause of tribal people and other industrial workers. Shamim, who works with the Samajwadi Jan Parishad (an organization of socialist-Gandhian orientation) has been put behind bars in Hoshangabad jail for exposing the corrupt nexus between politicians and the mining mafia. She was arrested in gross violation of democratic rights on 10th February 2009 from her residence at Harda, M.P. The process of attempting to secure bail from M.P High Court is now on.
The arrest was made on false charges, one of instigating tribals to ‘attack forest officials’ and another of ‘kidnapping with the intention to kill’ these officials! These charges were brought against her (and her husband) two years ago in 2007. Subsequently no enquiries were conducted, and no follow-up was done but the fact that these charges hung over their heads was presumably meant to cow them down. These charges have suddenly been resurrected because the administration has been under pressure from industrialist lobbies. Earlier, the trial court had rejected her bail plea despite the fact that the person supposed to have been ‘kidnapped’ was said to be present in court and denied any such thing. Another evidence, if any was still required, of the deep nexuses of power that operate at these levels. Continue reading The Arrest of Shamim Modi at Industrialists’ Behest→