Instructions

Read the passages to answer the questions that follow each passage.

PASSAGE IV
Mobility of capital has given an unprecedented leverage to companies not only to seek low paid, informal wage employees across national boundaries, but the threat of capital flight can also serve to drive down wages and place large numbers of workers in insecure, irregular employment. Informalisation strategies enable employers to draw on the existing pool of labour as and when they require, without having to make a commitment to provide permanent employment or any of the employee-supporting benefits associated with permanent jobs. As far as the working class is concerned, informalisation is in fact, a double-edged sword. For not only is the employee denied the rights associated with permanent employment, but the nature of casual work essentially destroys the foundations of working class organisations. As workmen move from one employer to another, numbers are scattered, everyday interests become divergent, and individualised survival takes precedence over group or collective struggles. 

Even workers who have been in sectors with a long tradition of unionisation are difficult to organise once they are removed from the arena of permanent employment. About 50,000 textile mill workers in Ahmedabad City were laid off during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The move to obtain compensation and rehabilitation for these workers floundered on the weakness of the struggle, as numbers of workers who were available for pressing their claims and taking to some kind of activism dwindled, the motivation of leaders declined and the struggle slowly frittered away. If this is the situation with workers familiar with the concept of unionisation, the task of organising vast masses of casual workers who have never been organised, is obviously much more difficult. The problem, essentially, is not only that of organising workers for struggle, but given the transitory nature of casual employment, employers are not bound to provide insurance of any kind, and frequently, there is no fixed employer against whom workers’ claims can be pressed. In this context, the formation of the National Centre for Labour (NCL) can be seen as a landmark in the history of the working class movement in India. The NCL is an apex body of independent trade unions working in the unorganised sector of labour, registered under the Indian Trade Union Act, 1926. Through its constituent members, the NCL represents the interests of workers in construction, agriculture, fisheries, forests, marble and granite manufacturing, self-employed women, contract workers, anganwadi and domestic workers, as also workers in the tiny and small-scale industries. The NCL, launched in 1995, has about 6,25,000 members spread over 10 states in India. The NCL reflects two tendencies. First, the formation of such a federation highlights that despite the problems in organising workers in the informal sector, there have in fact, been a range of organisations which have sought to address these issues. On a collective plane, their activities represent a marked departure from the traditional way of conceptualising union activities exclusively around organised or formal sector workers. Thus, the unionisation of the hitherto unorganised sector has become inserted into the political universe as a possible and legitimate activity. Second, the formation of the NCL, to an extent, overturns the pessimistic logic that the interests of the unorganised sector - given their diverse and inchoate form - cannot be articulated from a single platform. For the NCL aims precisely, do not only provide an anchoring for these diverse organisations, but more importantly, to articulate the need for institutionalised norms of welfare which can apply to the unorganised sector as a whole. It is in the context of this generalised movement that one needs to view recent efforts to bring in legislative acts which seek to create a new framework of laws and institutions addressing the needs of the unorganised sector. One of the major problems that has dogged this sector has of course been that of implementation. Thus, for example, while there is a stipulated minimum wage for most industries, this is frequently flouted by employers. A central objective of the NCL has been to advocate legislation to create agencies, which would mediate between the employer and the employee, to institutionalise certain guarantees of welfare and security to the' employee. Thus, for example, the State Assisted Scheme of Provident Fund for Unorganised Workers, 2000, proposed by the Labour Department of the Government of West Bengal, introduces the mechanism of a Fund which will be contributed to by the worker (wageearner or self-employed person), the employer, and the Government and to which the worker would be entitled at the age of 55 or above. By registering a worker to this programme and issuing an identity card, the initial hurdle to identifying a large mass of scattered workers is overcome, and a step is taken towards institutionalising their legitimate claims against the employers and from the State. The Karnataka Unorganised Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Work) Bill, 2001”, offers a more comprehensive framework for addressing the unorganised sector's needs. It envisages the formation of a Fund and a Board, in each sector. The Board, consisting of members from the Government, employers and employees, would be responsible for administering the Fund. Employers must compulsorily pay towards the Fund, a certain fixed percentage of the wages or taxes payable by them, or a certain percentage of the cost of their project, (for example, in construction projects). The concept of the Fund is designed to create the financial viability of social security for workers, and to provide a structure for employers' contribution. Thus, workers would be insured for accident and illness, old age,and .unemployment. The Board is designed to provide a mechanism to ensure the working of the Fund, and essentially, to institutionalise workers' claims against employers through an empowered agency. In the broader context of economic liberalisation, recently proposed labour reforms seek to extend the scope of contract employment and to facilitate worker lay-off. As casualisation of labour now seems an irreversible trend, the Bills outlined above would appear to be the only way to ensure workers' interest. To this extent, organisations such as the NCL, which have systematically struggled to push for such legislation, are serving an invaluable historical purpose. As the Karnataka Unorganised Workers Bill awaits endorsement during the Assembly sessions being held currently, for the protagonists of the movement, this would be a watershed, but, nevertheless only a moment in a struggle that needs to be waged at multiple points and to evolve to newer heights.

Question 35

According to the passage, textile mill workers could not obtain compensation because


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