Article (November-2020)


2020 Labour Codes - A new dawn or the setting sun?

Archana Balasubramanian

Designation : -   Partner

Organization : -  AGAMA Law Associates, Mumbai


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Contemporary debates in India hinges on the Indian welfare state reneging on its welfare ideals with increasing openness of the economy. Western ideas on welfarism have never been fully applicable to the Indian context and both the support and the opposition of welfarism in India have come from other sources.

The Indian back drop of welfare state comes from the vision of Shri J. Nehru who was greatly impressioned by the Leviathon. Nehru for the first time coined the term "socialist democracy. In the principal fight between capitalism and labour class - the Government would act as a mediator testing each capitalist action against the concept of "socialism" and rights of workmen. The Indian welfare state is characterised in the Indian Constitution in Part IV in Directive Principles of State Policy.

Nehru's welfare state model is understood through a three-pronged identification of the Nehruvian democratic socialism, planning and industrialisation and commitment to secular credentials. In the framework of democratic polity, his efforts in building strong centralised bureaucracy with the Weberian unity of command also indicate the presence of a state that delivers both productive and protective functions.

In this backdrop of the welfare state, if one were to scrutinize the state of the labour class and the real benefits to the labour, one would encounter a gaping gorge between capital and labour.

This article seeks to explore the gravitation of the law towards bridging the gap between labour welfare and welfare of the businesses themselves. This thought process comes from the fundamental premise that a business is still characterized through the capital infuser and his interests are seen as aligned with the business. However, the laborer is seen as 'not aligned' with the welfare of business creating a dichotomy and the two are seen as two competing aspects each vying for its pie of profits.The age-olddichotomy created between the businesses and who runs them and the laborers on the other side has followed us into the present from the age of the industrial revolution. The question arises whether the measures of the government would result in a deepening of the gorge or arriving at a median.The haste with which the trio of codes was passed - leaves a lot to be desired.

The Flurry in September

On 28th September 2020, three legislations received the assent of the president being:

Each of these will be in force on a date appointed by the Central Government and as notified by it in the Official Gazette. None of these laws are enforced but it is interesting to see what they would bring about post November 2020. In fact, it was in 2003 that these reforms were originally suggested. So, it has taken 17 years to see the light of day. These laws will now be notified and then the labour ministry will start framing rules and guidelines, which clarify many of the new provisions. It is expected that these laws will get implemented early next year.

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