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Sonia's panel for labour reform

March 07, 2006 12:11 IST
If the recommendations of the National Advisory Council on the report of the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council are accepted, not only will the country achieve 12 per cent growth in the manufacturing sector but many labour- related reforms towards this end may also gain ground.

The NAC heard a presentation by the competitiveness council after its report had been submitted and made its own suggestions and additions to the report. It is in the arena of labour reform that these are most significant.

The report says the government should retain the Contract Labour (Regulation-Abolition) Act 1970 but should tighten up Section 10 of the Act so that ambiguity about the continuance of contract labour and absorption following abolition is removed.

"Competitiveness cannot function without free exit," the NAC says, adding that the Industrial Disputes Act makes it "impossible for companies to exit".

The NAC recommends that the requirement of a government permission be dispensed with but without affecting the interests of labourers.

As a via media, it suggests that pending a consensus on Chapter VB of the Act, other sections of the Industrial Disputes Act be amended and other labour reforms implemented.

Referring to the Second National Commission on Labour (2002), which sought harmonisation of labour laws, the NAC urges the government to act on it soon. The council supports tax breaks to fund research and development.

The NAC, which is headed by Sonia Gandhi and comprises a large number of non-government organisations is a body whose views are heeded with respect.

The National Rural Employment Guarantees Programme was first suggested by the NAC and its recommendations were adopted by the government despite several doubts about whether the funds for this would really reach the poor. The council's intervention also led to the Right to Information Act becoming a reality.

It was at the NAC's behest that a Bill about tribal rights has been finalised and is likely to be passed soon.

Therefore there are good chances that its suggestions on the national Manufacturing Competitiveness Council Report might be accepted.

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BS Political Bureau in New Delhi