The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Narayanan takes swipe again at labour law

New Delhi, Oct. 2: Former President K.R. Narayanan has renewed his “activist” role with an attack on labour law reforms that he fears will lead to a dangerous situation in the country.

On the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary today, Narayanan attended two functions — one organised by the CPI-backed All-India Trade Union Congress and the other a seminar convened by safai karamcharis on labour reforms.

It is not surprising that the Aituc invited Narayanan to release the special edition of their journal. The Left Front always had a soft spot for the former President. In fact, they were the ones who rooted for a second term for Narayanan.

The former President, who had attracted the wrath of the ruling alliance at the Centre by playing a “pro-active” role during his tenure in Rashtrapati Bhavan, always believed that labour law reforms would be disastrous for the country. Today, he held out the familiar warnings.

“The proposed labour reforms are working against the interests of the poorest classes. They will deprive him of a meal a day,” said Narayanan.

In a not so veiled reference to the controversial Industrial Disputes Act and Contract Labour Act, the former President said relaxation of restrictions on closures, lay-offs and retrenchments may “fuel unemployment and trigger revolutionary violence”. The real test of any reform lies in its efficacy to improve the condition of the poor.

At the Aituc headquarters, Narayanan said the country is passing through a crisis. The situation is bad and something must be done to change it.

Aituc general secretary Gurudas Dasgupta said this was the first time the trade union was organising this kind of a function on Gandhi Jayanti. That the Left’s perception of Gandhi has undergone a sea change was evident when he described the Mahatma as the “greatest” Indian.

CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan underlined the seriousness of the Gujarat situation while Hind Mazdoor Sabha leader Umraomal Purohit stressed the need for trade union unity.

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