'Nobody wants to run an exploitation factory.'
Civil society member Nikhil Dey, also the founder member of the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and Soochana avam Rozgar Adhikar Abhiyan, was the midwife behind two of Rajasthan's recent revolutionary pieces of legislation, one providing social security to gig workers and the other offering minimum guaranteed employment.
"Social security is a part of your (workers) wage," Dey tells Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com in the concluding segment of a two-part interview:
- Part 1 of the Interview: 'Destitution and starvation will go from Rajasthan'
In Maharashtra we have labour courts where organised unions do not get justice on time and verdicts are often delayed. In this scenario, how will the gig workers social security law (The Rajasthan Platform Based Gig Workers Registered and Welfare Bill 2023) help? Who will give them justice?
The question is, if you don't get justice, does it mean we do not make a law?
Today, we can say people are not getting justice because you standardise the law.
There was no social security for gig workers.
Let us take an example of Ola and Uber drivers.
They own the car, they fill the petrol, they take the risk, they give the time to business and the day they are ill or cannot work, they get nothing. And their profits are taken by Ola and Uber to an extent of 30 to 40 percent.
So, should not these drivers need social security?
Now, the Rajasthan law says that on every ride there will be a fee that will be paid to workers which will go in their separate account for social security. This is not to spend money, but for their emergency purpose.
Companies like Zomato or Uber or Ola are loss making companies at the moment. How can they run if you have such rules?
Don't run the company, as people will get their work done without you. If they are loss making companies, then they are making money on the stock markets. They are running a different business model altogether, but the workers who are working in those companies, should they get justice or not? Are they in the calculations of these companies?
Tomorrow, you will say we are a loss making money so I will take half of your food. The Supreme Court of India has said if a company cannot afford minimum wages it has no business to be in business. Social security is a part of your (workers) wage.
But how do you give money when there is no money in the company to give?
They should not run then. They cannot run companies on the exploitation of people.
Is it not a worry then that business houses will keep away from Rajasthan if such laws are passed?
There is no such worry. I as a consumer will pay 2 percent extra for the driver of Uber for his old age pension. Will you not put that 2 percent extra for his illness? It is not the company which is paying, but consumers.
Can Uber run without a driver? The driver owns the car, he pays for the petrol, so what is Uber giving in this business except one platform?
Just ask every passenger of Uber if they are willing to pay two percent extra on their fare for the social security of the driver and give them the option that if they do not pay, then Uber will leave the state. I am sure every passenger will pay.
After liberalisation in 1991 one sentence that got popular with Indian businessmen was that 'Government has no business to be in business'. Now, it looks like all that the government wants to do is be in business by telling businesses what to do.
This is not government in business, but it is about companies we are talking about.
Do companies not have the responsibility to pay wages? They are in business and they must pay minimum wages to their workers.
They have to follow that standard and the companies we sat with, they too agree on this social security aspect.
Nobody wants to run an exploitation factory. Consumers are paying in any case and not the companies.
Is it true you presented your idea to Rahul Gandhi during the Bharat Jodo Yatra after which he told Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot to look into your suggestions?
We talk to every party and yes, we did speak to Rahul Gandhi about this during his Bharat Jodo Yatra.
He did mention this issue in his speech at Alwar. He said many youth get into the gig economy and get little security.
Ashok Gehlot later responded to us. We have been talking about this issue at so many places.