ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Occupational SafetySubscribe to Occupational Safety

Putting a Price on Life

The relaxation of the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown and resumption of factory operations amid diluted labour laws have led to a spree of “industrial accidents” and workplace deaths. Monetary compensation, once a hard-won victory for the working class, has been incorporated into institutional corporate strategy and state control where reimbursing deaths with money has become an everyday business for employers as workplace conditions continue to be fraught with weak labour laws and safety measures. The new labour codes continue this strategy.

Building Workers under the New Labour Codes

In October 2020, the Bharatiya Janata Party-controlled Parliament had, in a tearing hurry, passed the remaining three labour codes— the Industrial Relations Code, Code on Social Security, and Code on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code. The versions of these codes tabled before the Parliament were never put out in the public domain for comments. The codes were passed within a day through the Lok Sabha without proper debate, and the next day, they were introduced and passed as the opposition boycotted the Rajya Sabha. With this, many labour law legislations, rights, and protections stand undone in the name of a mere consolidation exercise. This article attempts to scrutinise how the Social Security Code and the Occupation Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code could affect the lives and rights of workers in the construction industry.

Plantation Workers and the OSHWC Code, 2020

Welfare provisions for plantation workers in the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020 are subject to how respective state governments frame rules and can have wide variations too. A basic standard template from the central government would have been better, preventing wide variations, as well as ensuring a basic threshold. Further, there is a need to recognise the use of technology in ensuring better occupational safety and health outcomes.

New Labour Codes and Their Loopholes

Every successive reform in labour laws fails to plug the loopholes.

Occupational Safety Continues to be Ignored as a Right

Newspaper reports of workplace accidents have been appearing with an alarming frequency even as lawmakers have been busy drafting and redrafting the Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code. During the COVID-19 period alone, 30 industrial accidents occurred in India, killing at least 75 workers and injuring hundreds (IndustriALL Global Union 2020). This article offers a critical review of the code and enforcement machinery to assess whether the new code and the administrative system can ensure safe workplaces.

Narratives of Health and Well-being

This paper deliberates upon the physical body of labourers as well as their health and well-being in order to reveal the contradictions in the state's discourse of national development and defence. Narratives of and interviews with the imported casual paid labour working on the Manali-Leh highway as for the Border Roads Organisation show us that illness, death and injury accompany the dangerous work of building roads in the high altitude of the upper Himalayas. The "unskilled" or "disposable" labourer is never able to accumulate additional utility or human capital even after many years of experience. His only capital--the body--is treated as a disposable and inanimate piece of machinery that loses its value in order to generate value for the nation.
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