The Labour Departments in the various States in India are notorious for their inefficiency, ineffectiveness and corruption. The most notorious among these are, without doubt, in the northern States. Labour Departments in other states are catching up; leading the pack is the Labour Department in Maharashtra!
Gone are the days of Ovids and Durves when the Labour Commissioners were much respected officers. They had a tough job. With 2.5 lakh textile workers, a good number in engineering and chemical industries in Maharashtra, their skills of both administration and conciliation were put to test often.
It is against this backdrop that one has to appreciate the efforts of the Gujarat Government’s Labour Department which swiftly brought about an understanding between General Motors management and their employees.
This is precisely what, in recent times, Tamil Nadu Government miserably failed to do! Many positive changes take place when there is political will. But it is seen only in Gujarat and in Bihar today.
Gujarat’s Labour Department has always actively sought to douse fire on the industrial scene. They have sometimes gone overboard. The Labour Department officials in Gujarat have always mentioned, with a sense of pride, how they stopped the onslaught of Dr. Datta Samant at Vapi. It is an open secret that Gujarat Government used all its might to prevent him from unionising workers in Gujarat.
That may be a ‘negative’ use of power. But in several instances they have managed to get the parties together. That credit must be given to them. General Motors strike case is the latest example.
The Gujarat Government seems to be very happy to keep the wheels of the industry moving. And it seems to turn a Nelson’s eye to certain malpractices that prevail in the State. There are reports of a 12 hour ‘boli’ [verbal contract] in the textile and many other industries at Surat in particular. What it means is that the understanding between the employer and a worker is for the latter working a 12 hour shift every day. This is illegal so nobody reduces in writing, but it is also a practice which is widely known.
While as yet there is no match to Labour Department of the Gujarat Government in its effectiveness and conciliation area, it will do well to be as effective in compliance too. Are you listening Mr Modi?