Tough Job of Employee Relations for you Mr Modi

My search landed me with two disturbing news reports, then one more, and as you will see, they have a common thread.

Poor labourers [are] paying price for India’s cheap car boom” screams Times of India. It is the story of Visheshwar Prasad Singh who lost his hand while working on a machine. He was not trained to operate it. Visheshwar Prasad Singh is a contract labourer. His hand was ‘attached’ again by the Doctors but it remains paralysed.

The other story titled ‘9 RIL Officers to Face Trial For Death of a Worker‘ covered by The Hindu, is a very bold order passed by Mr VC Joshi, the Judicial Magistrate of FC Khalapur, “states that action against the nine accused [all Reliance Industries Officers] should be initiated under Section 304 A (rash or negligent act not amounting to culpable homicide) read with Section 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The maximum punishment under the section is two years or a fine or both.

The order passed by VC Joshi, Judicial Magistrate of FC Khalapur, observed that the deceased was a contract labourer but was performing the tasks of a skilled worker carried out by permanent employees, which was not part of his employment. Pandurang Balaram Babre died on December 22, 2014, after he fell from a tank on which he had climbed to check finish oil. He fell as ‘the surrounding of the machinery was unclean and dirty’.” [Unquote]

Engaging contract labour seems to keep conscience of the employer clean – ‘after all the labourer was not my worker.’

And here is the third news report [UK tea brands drop Indian supplier over work conditions] – ‘Several of Britain’s biggest tea brands, including PG Tips, Tetleys and Twinings, have said they will work to improve the tea estates they buy from in India after a BBC investigation found dangerous and degrading living and working conditions.’

So the business was lost!

The report is supported by several photographs of toilets and horrible working conditions in general.

While everybody supports ‘Make in India’ and the end of ‘Inspector Raj’, reports like these raise doubts in the minds of readers whether the industry can, on its own, conform to the statutory mandates of welfare and safety. The record of the industry does not infuse much confidence. 

With unions which are either corrupt or incapable, and with unconscionable employers, both in plenty, you have a tough job on hand, Mr Modi!

Vivek S Patwardhan
PS: Please also read this sequel and answer to the BBC Report Read this sequel to BBC report: ‘Brewing Change in Indian Tea’