With the COVID-19 pandemic bringing industries and working life to a staggering halt, the economy worldwide has plummeted. To combat the economic crisis, India has turned its labour laws to a worker’s worst nightmare.

With the entire world shut indoors in lockdown, the economy of not just India, but the entire world, has plummeted. The economic crisis that 2020 faces has been described to be even worse than the recession faced in 2007-2009. This global financial crisis is comparable to 1930s Great Depression, a period that saw devastating economic despair from 1929-1939, and led to mass unemployment, industry closures and human trauma worldwide.

The Indian unemployment rate in the week that ended on 3rd May 2020 rose to 27.1%, the highest that the country had ever seen. It is estimated that over 9 crore people lost their jobs due to the lockdown. In this calculated estimation, the ones hit the hardest were the daily wage labourers and small traders. In an attempt to battle this destructive economic decline, the Indian government has “suspended” major labour laws in various states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. UP government has suspended these laws for three years, under the ruse of “safeguarding the welfare of the workers and ensuring industrial safety”. 

In Uttar Pradesh, 35 of the 38 labour laws applicable have been suspended. The only three laws that have been exempted are the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996; the Workmen Compensation Act, 1923, and the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976, along with the Section 5 of the Payment of Wages Act, which relates to the timely payment of wages.

But does it really help India? For long, India’s labour laws have been criticized. They have been characterized as “too inflexible” and too many in numbers, making them hard to follow. Thus, reformed laws are needed in- lesser laws that are easier to follow would ensure that firms can contract and expand according to the market requirement, thus converting the largely informal sector that currently employees a large majority of Indian workers to a formal one that would provide with better salaries and social security benefits. 

However, the laws introduced do little to aid that. In fact, they have been largely characterized as slave laws, paving the way for exploitation in the 21st century. The provisions that have currently been terminated encompass basic rights like minimum wage, occupational safety, as well as minimum standards for working conditions. The Indian industries, many of which already lacked basic hygiene and safety equipment for their workers such as ventilation, toilets, daycare or even basic potable water, are now under no government obligation to provide these basic necessities. Keeping in mind that basic hygiene is probably more important in a post-pandemic world than any other, the introduction of these laws is not just ignorant, but downright inhumane. The basic minimum wage, that already was scant, to begin with, is now under no obligation to be met. Another heavily criticized decision was the increasing of working hours from 8 to 12. Not only would the increased hours prove to be exhaustive upon the workers, but the decision also does not aid towards utilizing more of the unemployed taskforce- it would do the exact opposite. Further, the laws risk the employment wages’ reduction as well, with nothing stopping the employer from firing his entire workforce and rehiring them on lower wages. 

Thus the reforms, which should be pushing towards formalization, can risk doing the exact opposite.

It is undeniable that the need for some sort of labour law exemption wasn’t necessary, or that it isn’t important to consider any opportunity that arises for marking an industrial revival in India and making its niche in the world. However, the justification that touts basic worker rights as the reason for the hindrance to some Indian manufacturing revolution is an inhumane and baseless one. The decision to scrap these laws was a poorly thought-out and untimely one. For now, the only purposes these reforms fulfil are stripping the workers of their basic rights and bargaining power, and making this the survival of the richest and the most privileged.

Featured Image Credits: BoredPanda

Shreya Juyal

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The entire country will be segregated into red, orange, and green zones based on number of reported cases from each region. 

The countrywide lockdown has been extended till 3rd May. The Prime Minister in his address to the nation stated that the entire country will be divided into three zones: red, orange, and green. These zones will be formed based on number of the cases in that area. Areas with sizeable cases will be in the red zone. There will be little to no activity allowed in this zone. The status of orange zones will be given to those areas that reported positive cases in the past but saw no increase in the number of cases. Those districts where no coronavirus cases were reported will be categorized as the green zones.

Chief Ministers of multiple states proposed the opening of liquor shops as the revenue generated through them adds a considerable amount to the state revenue. In green zones, citizens will be permitted for limited movement across the zone itself. The limited movement will most likely put the green zones at risk of turning into orange zones. Many districts in Maharashtra reported cases with no travel history or close contact with anyone having a travel history. Yashvi, a student of Miranda House College opined: “The decision of categorizing regions into three different zones is going to be complex, and faulty implementation might lead to serious repercussions such as spreading of wrong information and a spike in new cases.”

India’s containment strategy is still being accurately mapped out. Hotspots or red zones will have strict travel restrictions. Many bureaucrats are apprehensive about the impacts the pandemic will have on the economy. According to the World Bank’s prediction, India will witness a growth of not more than 1.5 to 2.8 percent.

Feature Image Credits: DNA India

Suhani Malhotra

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The University of Delhi (DU) has pledged its staffers’ one day salary to the PM relief fund in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.  

The University of Delhi (DU) has decided to pledge its staffers’ one-day worth salary to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) that has been set up in the wake of the Coronavirus spread, in an attempt to fight to the pandemic.

The Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) in India is a public raised fund that does not get any budgetary compensation from the government. It was set up to provide relief and support for people in cases of natural and man-made disasters.

The PMNRF along with Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations (PM-Cares)- set up specifically during the ongoing coronavirus spread- are the two citizen-funded initiatives that have been providing relief to the economically weaker sections during the pandemic. On Monday, 30th April 2020, the University released a statement where this donation was proposed.

Along with this initiative, the University has apparently formed a task force in an attempt to take stock of the ongoing crisis that has arisen due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. This task force would be coming up with recommendations regarding academic and administrative responsibilities of the university in these trying times. The University has also stated that excessive amounts of financial resources are going to be needed by the centre to deal with the upcoming circumstances and provide relief to help its more vulnerable citizens in this crisis.

“The University has proposed to contribute one day’s salary of teaching and non-teaching staff to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF),” it said in a statement. The statement also revealed that a mobile application is currently in development so that employees who wish to contribute more to the PMNRF to help the situation can do so.

In the aforementioned context, the statement further read that the university is also making use of the two recently integrated apps- Google Classes and Google Hangouts- which can be used by the faculty and students to continue with the academic schedule online.

The University has also stated that it has made arrangements to provide all basic amenities to students staying in hostels, and that the mess facility is operational in all of the hostels maintained by the University. Four medical centres- The World University Services (WUS) Health Centre at North Campus, The WUS Health Centre at South Campus, East Delhi (Dr BR Ambedkar College) and West Delhi (Shivaji College)- have also been made available that have medical professionals, paramedics and ambulance around the clock.

Feature Image Credits: DU Beat Archives

 Shreya Juyal

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Yes, the swans are returning to the canals of Venice, and the skies of Delhi are clearing up, but at the cost of whom? Because it is not the rich.

Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite was unarguably one of the best movies that were served to us last year. An excessively uncomfortable yet realistic movie about the class divide, it was practically on everybody’s tongue to discuss.

There were many gripping scenes in the movie, and it’s hard to pick a favourite, but the “car scene” was definitely one of the best. It describes a scene where Mr Kim is driving Mrs Park back home after a day of shopping for her son’s birthday impromptu that was to happen that evening.

The night before, a devastating downpour that flooded the entire city, forcing the poor out of their homes and destroying almost every belonging that they possessed. Mr Kim and his entire family had been displaced too, with their entire house wrecked and destroyed, but he had still been asked to come to work and look cheerful for the Parks, simply because he had been paid.

In the car, Mr Kim drives forlorn and dejected- the man had just lost his house and everything he had owned- while Mrs Park sits in the back-seat with her feet up, inviting a friend to the evening’s jamboree. She talks heartily in the back, complaining about the rain, and how they had to trade plans for her son’s birthday- from camping to a garden party. “But at least the sky cleared up,” she says, as Mr Kim, whose house the rain that had ‘at least cleared the sky’ had destroyed, drives on. To Mrs Park, a downpour that had destroyed hundreds of lives in the city was a mild inconvenience that had at least made the sky pretty.

That is exactly what we sound like when we applaud the swans of Venice coming back, or the pollution clearing up and the skies becoming pretty, or the Earth ‘reclaiming herself’. All these things are extremely important- and needful- and there is absolutely no contest to that. However, we are extremely fast to forget that this clearing up of these skies, and the ‘reclamation’ of nature, has come not at the expense of the rich, as it should have been, but instead at the expense of the poor.

As workers, a lot of us have the privilege of a work-from-home, something that the daily-wage labourer or the essential service worker cannot afford. To a lot of us, the sacrifice for the clearing up of skies is the mild inconvenience of having to stay at home working from our laptops yet earning the same or watching hours of Netflix to try to while away the time. But the sacrifice that the poor make isn’t simply an inconvenience- it is a matter of survival and uncertainty. It is a matter of anxiety about how to earn enough to buy basic groceries that were already hard to buy, to begin with. For them, this global crisis is more than just medical.

The swans should return to the canals of Venice, the waters of the beaches of Manila should be turquoise again, and the skies of Delhi should clear up. It is what we owe to nature, as is her right. But the least we can do is not romanticize a pandemic that is giving all this to us by standing on the backs of the poor.

Feature Image Credit: Parasite (2019)

Shreya Juyal
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