May Day 2019: India’s labour day comes at the cost of 570,000 job losses and 297 deaths

Labour day isn’t only about recognition of hard work. It is also pushing for equality, work rights and the larger benefit of working men and women across the globe.

As the world celebrates Labour Day, here is a look at its history and what it means for workers. It dates back to 1886 when workers in the US took to the streets protesting long work hours. They demanded that their work time be reduced from 16-10 hours to 8 hours a day.

In India, the situation of labourers has been far from pleasant. Over the years, it has been marred with gender inequality, hazardous working conditions, job crises and unemployment. Indian labour laws leave much to be desired on minimum wage and mandated work hours.

Here’s a low-down of several fronts where Indian workers are fighting for basic rights, conducive work environment and a decent pay scale:

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​May Day in India

​May Day in India

India’s Labour Day, also known as May Day, is a nationwide holiday. The Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat, also celebrate their founding day today as they attained statehood on the same day on May 1, 1960.

​India’s first labour day

​India’s first labour day

The first time Labour Day was celebrated in India was in 1923. It began with prominent leader Malayapuram Singaravelu Chettiar, who marked the beginning of communism in India by raising a red flag. Singaravelar introduced labour day by introducing a political party amid Gandhi’s struggle for freedom and the communist movement.

​Job Crisis and Increasing Unemployment

​Job Crisis and Increasing Unemployment

One of the leaked labour force survey reports by the National Sample Survey Organisation revealed that India’s unemployment rate had touch 6.1%. According to the Economic Intelligence Agency, CMIE, more than 5,70,000 workers lost their job in between 2016 and 2019. This, however, was contradicted by the central government.

‘Experiment’ with Labour Laws

‘Experiment’ with Labour Laws

India’s labour ministry has been pushing to reform the labour codes in the country but there’s no progress so far. The draft for Wages Bill 2017 was introduced in Lok Sabha last year but the ministry is still waiting for the panel report.

The Rajasthan Assembly was the first to amend four key labour laws in India. The state was the first to allow factories with less than 300 workers to fire them without any permission from authorities. Back in 1982, factories having less than 100 workers were allowed to fire them at any given point of time.

Mine hole linked with decent wages but uncertain deaths

Mine hole linked with decent wages but uncertain deaths

Rathole mining continues to be one of the most dangerous jobs in India, leading to fatal accidents and uncertain death. In 2019, 5 miners were trapped in one of the coal mines in Meghalaya, known to be the hot-spot for rat-hole mining, At least 1,666 coal mining accidents took place across the country between 2013 and 2016, according to the Ministry of Labor and Employment news reports. Among these accidents, 261 were reportedly fatal accidents that led to 297 deaths in the country.

Stranded employees of Jet Airways

Stranded employees of Jet Airways

After grounding its operation, Jet Airways, India's oldest private airline, hit its 16,000 employees who hung around during the last few stressful months before getting stranded. WeWork invited the staff of Jet Airways to apply for vacancies in the company. The issue has triggered the long debate of reforming labour laws in India.

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