Occupational, Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020
The first webinar of the second semester was held on 31 March 2021 on ‘Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020’, which was one of the three labour codes that received the Presidential assent in September 2020. The code aims at providing a safe and dignified working environment to workers and also organising the unorganised sector which employs 93% of the total workforce. However, it has not been successful in getting the stakeholders on board. Many feel that the code dilutes provisions of the previous central labour laws leaving a vacuum for undesired government discretion. The webinar was aimed at critically examining the provisions of the revised Code as well as the criticism against it, the changes to the 2019 draft and the extent to which it addresses the concerns of the workers. After welcoming everyone, the moderator Ms. Sivapriya Ambalavanan (first-year M.A> PPG), introduced the Code providing a brief legislative analysis of the important provisions which would be focused on by the lead speaker.
The lead speaker Ms. Aswathi Prakash (first-year M.A.PPG) shared insights on the evolution and working of the Code thus educating the audience on the implementation aspects of the policy. She also mentioned a comprehensive analysis of the policy and the aspects which required further research. She concluded by saying that the involvement of stakeholders in the policymaking process would be important to effectively cater to their needs.
Arun Kumar (first-year M.A. PPG), the first discussant continued the line of thought of the lead speaker on the ease of doing business. He emphasized the lack of importance given to the agricultural sector workers as well as the deep-sea mining and coral research workers. He further elaborated on the gaps in the Code focusing on pandemic-like situations and concluded with the research and development aspect highlighted in the code and how it would strengthen Centre-State relations and innovations within the country.
Priyanka (first-year M.A. PPG) focused on the perspectives of how this code would be a backbone in the future for pandemic-like situations as it helps strengthen database collection, now performed individually by the States and the Centre. She also focused on how improvement in the working conditions would reflect in other social structures of the worker’s life, like their social status, food and general habits and others. This was supported by example, from the pandemic situation and how it affected the working class of the country adversely.
The discussion saw active participation from the audience and many areas were discussed in-depth to uncover the various provisions of the code and the multiple meanings which could be inferred. The merits and demerits and how the existing institutions and arrangements affect the Code were highlighted. It was also pointed out by the audience how the current provisions lead to the prevention of earlier issues, and thoughts on why these issues were overlooked earlier, making it a social reality for the working class in the past.