Should States Relax Labour Laws At The Time Of Pandemic

Should States Relax Labour Laws At The Time Of Pandemic

Source – The Hindu 

Syllabus – GS Paper 2 – Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources. 

Context –States have granted exemption to Industries from legal provisions associated with Labour rights. 

Important Labour Laws 

  1. Industrial Dispute Act, 1947
  2. Factories Act, 1948
  3. Contract Labour Act, 1970


  1. According to ILO, nearly 81% of India’s employed population is in informal sector 
  1. According to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, lockdown due to COVID forced 122 million people into joblessness 

Steps taken by States: 

States like Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh has taken following steps: 

  1. Working hours for labourer’s increased from 8 to 12 hours 
  1. Exempted Industries from Right of worker’s section of Factory Act, 1948 – thus employer not bound to provide light, first aid, canteen, rest time, ventilation to workers. 
  1. Industries not bound to maintain register of adult and child worker 

Section 5 of Factories Act grants industries exemption from provisions of Act for 3 months in case of public emergency. 


Positive Implications–  

  1. Impetus to domestic industries –This step will boost thedomestic industries to promote production of goods and services when economy is reeling under effects of slowdown of 2019 and COVID lockdown. 
  2. To enhance ease of doing business– This will attract countries shifting their manufacturing base from China due to supply chain disruptions originating from China owing to the Covid-19 pandemic  

Negative Implications 

  1. Ethical concerns– Basic human rights like first aid, rest time are not provided to labours, which goes against universal humanistic values. 
  2. Against Socialistic principle of Preamble– Erodes gains made since Independence to secure minimum rights for labourers by several trade unions and social movements. 
  3. Marxian notion of Have (industrialist) and have nots (labourers) strengthened– This increases the exploitation of have nots in absence of legal provisions. 

Way Forward – Unprecedented times of COVID has called for unprecedented measures, which however requires avoidance of extreme steps directed against vulnerable sections. Balancing the economic interests and the human rights of the vulnerable sections must be managed well by the governments.


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