New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday launched a sharp attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying the BJP-led central government wants to weaken labour laws and “discipline” labourers.
Addressing the 31st plenary session of the Congress-affiliated Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC) here, Gandhi alleged that the government wants to tear down safety net provided by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government to the labourers.
“The prime minister thinks that labourers of India are dishonest, weak and they can be made to work only through the use of force. He thinks that there is need to weaken labour and labourers should be disciplined so that they are forced to work,” Gandhi said.
He also slammed the labour laws being formulated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) governments in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana. Gandhi said Modi wants that labourers bend on their knees.
“If you look at the laws being made in Rajasthan, Gujarat and now in Haryana then it is very clear that Narendra Modiji has started a big attack on labourers.
“He thinks that ‘hire and fire’ and weakening the unions will make the labourers work. The government should be neutral but the government has left the labourers alone,” he said.
Gandhi assured INTUC members that they would get “right place” in the Congress party structure and an “important place” in ticket distribution.
“I want to see your members in the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha, assemblies, municipal councils and panchayat,” he said.
Gandhi said there was need to know real meaning of “growth” and “progress”.
“Who is benefiting from growth. Are 20-25 people turning billionaires. Is it that a few are roaming in their private jets while labourers are finding it difficult to purchase even bus ticket. Are labourers living in jhuggis and dying by consuming dirty water,” he asked.
He said it questions about labourers’ having access to school, medicine and sanitation are covered behind words “GDP”, “growth”, “development”.
Gandhi said labour force creates the products and services availed by people. “I want to tell you that the entire country respects your blood, sweat and tears,” he said.
Referring to slogan of “Make in India”, Gandhi said he differs with Modi on its meaning and India was lagging behind in manufacturing as the “labourer of the country is afraid”.
“He lives in fear, dies in fear. You talk of productivity. Till the time a labourer is fearful about his future, till then he will not be able to work properly. Show him future of his children and see where he takes India. You remove fear of future in him and we will beat China,” Gandhi said.
“Modiji, understand one thing. India’s labourer is neither weak nor indisciplined,” he added.
The Congress vice-president said a partnership between the labour and industry was possible if the government works as a judge and not as an “advocate of industralists”.
“An India where labourers give their sweat was acceptable to me but not an India where they have to give their blood and tears.”
He said Modi should spend some time with people who understand labourers as he was getting wrong advice.
“Modiji, better work cannot be achieved by reducing job security of labourers. Their problems cannot be solved by making it difficult to form unions. Productivity of labour will not increase by removing eight-hour schedule, over-time payments and putting them on contract.”
Gandhi said labourers tell him about their fears of losing jobs and this also has adverse impact on industrial progress.
“If we give him more power, treat him as a stakeholder, he is able to work better. The benefit of industry is in giving respect to labourers and not exploiting them.”
He said the Congress brought millions of people out of poverty through the rural employment guarantee scheme and had forced the present government to backtrack on the its controversial land bill.