“This mad rush for wealth must cease and the labourer must be assured not only of a living wage but a daily task that is not a merge drudgery.” – M. K. Gandhi
Welcome to India, the country which is set to be the youngest country in the world by 2020. With 1.2 billion people and the world’s fourth-largest economy, India’s growth and development has been one of the most significant achievements. Since independence, the country has brought about an agricultural revolution that transformed the nation from chronic dependence on grain imports into a global agricultural powerhouse. Today it is the net exporter of food. The success story of India has been written by positive turnarounds in its life expectancy ratio which more than doubled literacy rates which quadrupled health conditions and emergence of a sizeable middle class. India is now home to globally recognized companies in important sectors such as pharmaceuticals, steel, information technology and the like. Many hands came together to achieve this dream of which, some were acknowledged while others continued to work in anonymity. These “unsung heroes” are our labourers who toiled to turn dreams into realities of many.
The first May Day celebration in India was organised in Madras by the Labour Kisan Party of Hindustan on 1st May 1923. This was also the first time the red flag was used in India. The party leader Singaravelu Chettiar made arrangements to celebrate May Day in two places – one at the beach opposite to the Madras High Court and other was held at the Triplicane beach. May Day is now observed as a national holiday in the country. Labour Day is known as “Kamgar Din” in Hindi, “Kamgar Divas” in Marathi and “Uzhaipalar Naal” in Tamil.
On International Labour Day 2015, the Government of India launched many programmes, of which few are mentioned below:
- Chief Labour Commissioner initiated “Shram Suvidha Portal – Ease of doing business” which is a computerised intelligent based inspection system
- Employees’ State Insurance Corporation of India (ESIC) initiated online payment of ESI contribution and improved medical infrastructure
- Employment Provident Fund Organization initiated portable Universal Account No. (UAN), 24×7 helpdesk for unclaimed PF accounts and, minimum pension of INR 1,000/- per month
- Directorate General of Employment and Training initiated National career service portal: 24*7 online employment services and e-certificate for ITI passouts, with facility of online verification by employers.
The Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav in a separate announcement introduced “Roti, Padhai aur Makaan” (food, education and house) for urban poor which includes readymade lunch for construction labourers for a minimal INR 10.
As per the estimate in 2013, labour in India stood at around 487.3 million, the second largest after China. Of these, over 94 percent worked in unorganised sector, ranging from pushcart vendors to home-based diamond and gem polishing operations whereas the organised sector included workers employed by the government, state-owned enterprises and private sector enterprises. The disappointment lies in the unorganised occupational groups which include small and marginal farmers, landless agricultural labourers, share croppers, fishermen, those engaged in animal husbandry, beedi rolling, labeling and packing, building and construction workers, leather workers, weavers, artisans, salt workers, workers in brick kilns and stone quarries, workers in saw mills, and workers in oil mills who are offered low wages and lead poor standard of life. Another major issue lies in the fact that about 30 million workers are migrant workers who are mostly engaged in agriculture and lack the means to get local stable employment which are more often unavailable for them.
It is also estimated that if we continue to grow at the current rate of population, India will add about 13 million new workers every year to its labour pool. Indian economy has been creating about 8 million new jobs every year, predominantly in low income and unorganised sector. The remaining 5 million youth join the ranks of poorly paid partial employment, casual labour pool for temporary infrastructure and real estate construction jobs, or in many cases, remain unemployed.
We should envisage an India where no labourer should have to lead a life in penury for want of opportunities and where their standing in society is decided on the work they do. Let’s salute our workers for investing their efforts in lending a strong foundation to the Indian economy. It is these hands which have carved the growth story of many businesses in India. They deserve dignity of life and respect as much as any other working class in our society.
“Genius begins great works; labor alone finishes them.”- Joseph Joubert, French moralist and essayist #LabourDay
By – Anand Kumar
Deputy Manager – Media Campaign