The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pant’s balancing act on labour laws

New Delhi, June 2: The Planning Commission has urged states to rationalise labour laws while safeguarding the interests of workers.

Planning Commission deputy chairman K. C. Pant said here today, “Rationalisation of labour laws and procedural simplification in their application will improve compliance and will also encourage employers to formally hire more labour. At the same time, certain effective laws are needed to guard against the exploitation of labour.”

Pant was speaking at the conference of state planning secretaries on employment strategies.

The number of rules, regulations and laws which have a bearing on use of labour is rather large, he said, adding states need to remove all impediments, which may be preventing full realisation of growth prospects of an activity which has substantive scope.

“Such impediments could be in the form of lack of infrastructure support — road, power — or in the form of some outdated rules applicable at the sectoral level. Many of the labour laws at the state level might have outlived their utility, and their continuation should be reconsidered,” Pant said

Rigidities and procedural complexities in the application of labour laws have become a source of harassment of employers by the enforcing agencies, he added.

Such practices only discourage an entrepreneur from either hiring labour or from formally acknowledging hiring of workers, an outcome which is opposite to the purpose that labour laws were supposed to serve — protect the interest of workers.

Another issue, which is very relevant in the present Indian context, relates to the quality of employment, the plan panel deputy chairman said.

Approximately one-third of those who are considered as employed on the time disposition criterion is below the poverty line. Providing work to all those seeking work is only one part of the challenge. Equally important, if not more, is to ensure that the employment is gainful, that it affords the workers a decent minimum living standard.

Equipping workers with human capital through access to vocational skills and education and access to some physical assets through credit facilities will help address the quality issue.

He said there was a definite need to have a monitoring mechanism to assess the employment impact of various programmes and schemes of the government.

Pant said every state government should prepare an employment profile and an employment creation action plan anchored therein. “The principal issue is how to mainstream ‘employment creation’ as an important criterion of all the economic decision-making processes.

The number of unemployed, including the underemployed, at the commencement of the Tenth Five-Year Plan was estimated at 35 million. Employment perspective for the Tenth Plan has been prepared not only to provide gainful employment to the new entrants, but also to reduce the backlog of unemployment.

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