As Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman ponder over the next step to revive animal spirit of the Indian economy, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the country's largest trade union and an affiliate of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), has demanded an immediate course correction in the current economic and labour reform path the government has undertaken. The Economic Resolution adopted by the BMS at the end of its three-day national executive committee meeting in Delhi on August 18 exhorted its one crore members spread over 5,000 affiliate unions across the country to conduct a nationwide awareness programme from September 25-October 2 to get ready for agitations against "the wrong economic and labour policies" of the government.
"At present, the economy does not look inspiring in spite of various programmes initiated to boost it. India's growth phenomenon had been promoting inequality. Overdependence on FDI (foreign direct investment) as a panacea for all economic maladies is wiping out many of our traditional MSME hubs. India's manufacturing sector is in a bad shape. All the burden common man has to bear," the resolution noted.
The resolution signed by BMS General Secretary Virjesh Upadhyay takes note of the slowdown in the automobile sector. "The automobile sector that contributes about half of India's manufacturing output is in a crisis. The government has to bear in mind that the first impact of any slowdown of economy is upon the labour. The automobile sector, which directly or indirectly engages about 3.5 crore workers, has retrenched about 3.5 lakh during the last three months alone," the resolution points out.
The BMS called for urgent steps to revive India's automobile sector by initiating steps like easing loan norms, reducing GST (Goods and Services Tax) rates, removing uncertainty over electric vehicles, providing stimulus package, etc. The trade union asked the government to stop privatisation and disinvestment of public sector units (PSUs) and sought the revival of sick PSUs. An increase in the wage level of the common worker by strictly implementing minimum wages under the new Code on Wages, 2019, the introduction of labour-friendly labour law reforms and the implementation of employment generation programmes on job intensive sectors were some of the key demands.
Alleging Niti Ayog was apathetic towards leading social organisations and trade unions, the BMS called for its restructure. It also sought the creation of a mechanism under each ministry to consult social sector organisations like trade unions, farmer organisations, and small-scale organisations before undertaking any reform.
The BMS' other demands included a change in bureaucrats' "anti worker attitude" and setting up of a technological commission to look into the role of 'job displacing' technologies like artificial intelligence. Blaming India's LPG (liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation) reforms as the root cause of India's problems, the BMS called for a relook at committee reports, labour, financial and banking reforms, etc. The resolution also sought a white paper on the impact of 28 years of liberalisation policies (LPG reforms, WTO, FTAs, and FDI) on the Indian economy. It also called for framing of a new India-centric alternative policy programme after consultations with social organisations, including trade unions.