The Rafale fighter jets won’t be the only stars of the Republic Day parade this year. The humble Indian worker, who bore the brunt of the pandemic last year, will be part of the show, too, in the labour ministry’s first tableau at the parade, both in a salute to his resilience and a bit of political messaging.
The ministry is still wrapping up some of the initiatives it introduced in 2020 for the benefit of migrant workers, millions of whom fled the cities and headed back home to the countryside in an exodus that followed the lockdown enforced on March 25 to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19)
The theme of the tableau, which features workers in hard hats and safety gear, is encapsulated in the slogan: “Mehnat ko samman, Adhikar ek samaan’’ (Respect for hard work, Equal rights for all).
A spokesperson for the labour ministry pointed out that the occasion precedes the imminent implementation of the new labour codes, which aim to bring the unorganised section of the workforce under the social security net. The government this week held its final round of consultations with stakeholders to sew up the rules for the code.
The three labour code bills — the Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, 2020; the Industrial Relations Code, 2020; and the Code on Social Security, 2020 — merged 24 central labour laws and were passed by Parliament in September as part of National Democratic Alliance government’s reform agenda. The Code on Social Security, 2020 promised universal social security for the first time, for both organised and informal workers as well as gig and platform workers.
Labour unions haven’t been enthusiastic about the new labour codes. Tapan Sen, a leader of the Centre for Trade Unions, said labour groups had met the minister on January 20 and rejected the changes, calling them exploitative because they allowed hiring and firing of workers by management teams.