Home >politics >policy >Parliament nod to Bill to amend labour laws

New Delhi: Amid the tussle between the government and opposition parties, Parliament on Friday approved a labour law that redefines small factories and frees small companies from furnishing separate labour returns.

The approval comes two days after Parliament approved amendments to the Apprentices Act, 1961, and sets the ball rolling on labour reforms to ease the process of doing business in India.

The Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Amendment Bill, 2011, was approved by Lok Sabha on Friday. On 25 November, Rajya Sabha had approved the draft law after a discussion on black money.

With this, a company employing between 10 and 40 workers will be called a small establishment. Earlier a small establishment was one with 10-19 employees. It will also allow them to furnish just one return rather than file separate labour returns, a move that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken of during a function of the labour ministry on 16 October.

Trinamool Congress, Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM) opposed the Bill even as minister of state for labour and employment Bandaru Dattatreya moved the Bill in the house for passage. Opposition parties argued that the Bill is being moved to benefit employers rather than employees. Dattatreya, however, assured the Lok Sabha that the Union government was committed to protecting the interest of workers.

“The prime minister has already said on 16 October that the government should trust businesses. The ministry, too, believes that the labour laws need to be simplified for promoting entrepreneurship and manufacturing in India while keeping a firm tab on the interest of workers," a labour ministry official said, requesting anonymity.

Although the Bill faced little resistance in the Lok Sabha, it was severely criticized in the Rajya Sabha, where several opposition parties opposed the draft legislation.

By exempting more establishments from complying with labour laws rigorously, the government is only pushing more workers out of the protection of law, said Tapan Sen, a CPM parliamentarian.

Sen, who is also general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (Citu), a workers’ lobby affiliated to CPM, said the government should have brought down the upper limit of the number of employees from 19 to 14 to be eligible to avail labour law-related benefits instead of increasing it to up to 40.

This law will lead to four benefits: lower harassment of small establishments in the hands of labour authorities, boost manufacturing, provide impetus to skill development as small businesses help convert unskilled workers to skilled ones and ultimately create more employment due to ease in the process of doing business, according to Chandrakant Salunkhe, president of the Small and Medium Business Development Chamber of India, an industry lobby group.

The Modi government in the past two months has made efforts to reduce discomfort to industries but the small businesses ministry needs to be more proactive along with labour ministry to help the sector.

A labour ministry official said the ministry is making “structural changes" to benefit all sections and the winter session of Parliament has been good for it. Other than the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by Certain Establishments) Amendment Bill, the government has managed to pass the Apprentices Amendment Bill 2014 in the Rajya Sabha on 26 November. It was passed by the Lok Sabha during the budget session of Parliament.

The Apprentices Bill aims to boost manufacturing by improving the supply of skilled manpower.

Both the legislation have received the nod from both the houses; they now need presidential approval to become laws.

PTI contributed to this story.

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