Bury Rajasthan’s Anti-labour Amendments in the Sands of Thar

‘With adequate profit, capital is very bold. A certain 10 per cent will ensure its employment anywhere; 20 per cent certain will produce eagerness; 50 per cent., positive audacity; 100 per cent will make it ready to trample on all human laws; 300 per cent., and there is not a crime at which it will scruple….’

– Marx, quoting from T J Dunning, in Genesis of Industrial Capital

The BJP government in Rajasthan is emerging as BJP’s laboratory for its intended onslaught on labour. The Rajasthan cabinet has cleared some major anti-labour amendments in the labour laws such as Industrial Disputes Act, Contract Labour Act and Factories Act. These amendments will come into force once they are passed in the State Assembly and then get Presidential assent.

The amendments seek to further facilitate the already existing hire and fire process by raising the minimum limit of employed workers for an industrial establishment to need permission from the government for retrenchment, from 100 workers to 300. An industrial dispute has to be raised within 3 years. Only a trade union with a membership 30% of total workforce can register, contract labour legislation will apply in an establishment only where the number of such workers is 50 (earlier it was 20) and Factories Act will apply to an establishment which uses electricity and employs 20 workers and which does not use electricity and employs 40 workers (earlier it was 10 and 20 respectively).

These amendments are sought to be done in the name of ‘creating 15 lakh jobs per year’ in the state. The chief secretary of Rajasthan government says the existing labour laws are anti-employment and without these amendments it is not possible to generate employment. Let us examine this claim more closely.

As per the ASI 2011-2012, the report published in March 2014, the total number of factory workers, and thus protected by the existing labour laws, in the country is 1,34,29,956. They are distributed in 1,75,710 factories. TN has the highest number of factory workers with 19,40,819 workers in 26,654 factories, which is closely followed by Maharashtra 18,80,606 in 22,615 factories and distantly followed by Gujarat by a difference of around 5 lakhs (13,83,773 in 17,529 factories). Rajasthan has 4,74,883 workers in 7,622 factories. In none of these states, the average number of workers in a factory exceeds 100.

Of the total 1,75,710 factories 1,25,301 factories employ less than 50 workers which is 71.31%. Factories employing 200 or more workers constitute just 8.94% of the total factories. Factories employing 5,000 or more workers constitute a meagre 0.21% of the total factories. 1,60,009 factories employ less than 200 workers. The number of factories with 200 – 499 workers is 9,094. In Rajasthan, where amendments to labour laws are proposed, the number of factories employing workers less than 200 is 7,102. There are 343 factories with 200-499 workers. Even if an average of 150 from this is added to the factories employing lesser number workers it will be 7,252. The remaining number of factories in Rajasthan is then just 370. Of the 1,34,29,956 factory workers in the country 36,10,056 workers are employed through contractors. In Rajasthan these corresponding numbers are 4,74,883 and 1,33,080.

These numbers fly in the face of Rajasthan government’s claim of creating 15 lakhs jobs a year.