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India lawmakers back controversial labour reforms

The new labour codes, which would also make it easier to hire and fire, are part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ongoing reform push, as his government tries to revive a sagging, pandemic-hit economy.

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Indian lawmakers on Wednesday backed long-pending labour reforms despite resistance from opposition members and activists over the new rules, which include a measure to make it harder for workers to strike.

The new labour codes, which would also make it easier to hire and fire, are part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ongoing reform push, as his government tries to revive a sagging, pandemic-hit economy.

After the upper house approval on Wednesday, the measures are expected to become law later this week after some formalities.

Read more: Forget economy, India under Modi is home to contentious identity politics

“Long due and much awaited Labour reforms have been passed by parliament,” Modi said on Twitter.

“These will ensure ‘Ease of Doing Business.’ These are futuristic legislations to empower enterprises by reducing compliance (and) red-tapism…,” he added.

Indian industry and business representatives have been demanding some of these changes for years, arguing that the laws were decades old and out of sync with current times. However the opposition has argued that these codes were rushed through without proper debate or discussion.

“Several trade unions are apprehensive about the implementation of the code. It has restrictions and difficulty in going legally on strike,” said MP K Ravindra Kumar, Press Trust of India reported.

Under the reforms, workers would have to give a 14-day notice period before downing tools.

Read more: Indian father of 5 girls cuts open wife’s belly to see if she is having a son

“The 14-day notice period obligation has been imposed…to attempt to end the dispute through amicable negotiations,” India’s Labour Minister Santosh Gangwar told the parliament.

The new labour codes also include a provision offering accident and life insurance, maternity benefits and pensions to around 400 million workers from the unorganised and new gig economy.

Wednesday’s vote came less than a week after India’s biggest agriculture sector reforms, loosening government monopolistic control over farmer markets. Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house of parliament, saw some of the most animated protests in years when the government pushed through the farm sector laws at the weekend.

Read more: Indian lawmakers suspended after chaotic protests on farming legislation

Eight Indian lawmakers were suspended for a week for “unruly behaviour” as microphones were broken and copies of the farm legislation and parliamentary rule book were hurled. The opposition lawmakers subsequently also announced their boycott of the ongoing session, and several laws were approved in their absence.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk

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