May Day or International Workers’ Day is observed on May 1 to commemorate the eight-hour workday movement in Chicago in 1886. The labour movements against exploitation can also be called the movements for human rights. Such movements took many countries to the highway of welfare economics and human development.
We need labour movements in India more than before as we are heading towards privatisation and contractual employment raj. Shop assistants in some malls are made to work more than eight hours a day. They are being forced to hand over their mobile phones during working hours. Being totally disconnected, they cannot be with their families in a sudden difficult situation. Sometimes, they are even denied to go to the toilet. On other hand, the NGO Safai Karmachari Andolan has estimated that one sanitation worker dies in the gutter every third day in our country.
Since the workers can be fired at the drop of a hat, the exploitation like withholding of wages, debt bondage, holiday hijacking and even physical and sexual torture have become rampant. Informal workers are highly vulnerable to exploitative practices as no record of contract has properly been maintained giving ample opportunity to the employers to adopt use (and abuse the workers) and throw (the ailing ones) methodology. Moreover, two layered discriminations namely social stigmatization and economic marginalization are still prevalent in our country.
The Government needs to conduct regular labour inspections and force the employers to upload the medical check-up reports of the workers and the data of the contracts of the contractual workers every month.
Sujit De, Kolkata
On May Day