ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Putting a Price on Life

Workers’ Safety and Monetary Compensation amid Changing Labour Codes

The relaxation of the COVID-19 pandemic-induced lockdown and resumption of factory operations amid diluted labour laws have led to a spree of “industrial accidents” and workplace deaths. Monetary compensation, once a hard-won victory for the working class, has been incorporated into institutional corporate strategy and state control where reimbursing deaths with money has become an everyday business for employers as workplace conditions continue to be fraught with weak labour laws and safety measures. The new labour codes continue this strategy. 

The year 2020 proved to be fatal for India’s working classes with the massive loss of human lives since the nationwide lockdown for COVID-19 was announced. The spurt in the number of reported deaths pointed to the reality that much of the loss occurred not on account of COVID-19 infections but due to state apathy towards the conditions of workers that led to starvation, suicides induced by financial distress, the lack of amenities in quarantine centres and the Shramik trains, and exhaustion and road accidents as many were forced to walk their way back to their home states after losing their source of income during this lockdown (Agarwal 2020).

The bulk of the avertible deaths were those that occurred in industries due to anti-worker legislations that have been pushed forth by the union and several state governments, violating the cardinal, hard-won labour legislations ensuring workers’ safety in industrial workplaces. On 4 May 2020, the centre relaxed the restrictions of the first phase of the lockdown, allowing factory operations to speed up. The hasty resumption of factory operations, where workers were instructed to compensate for the reduced workforce or the lack of attention towards the routine maintenance and inspection of factory equipment in the industries, coincided with a spree of “industrial accidents” that took place across the country (IndustriALL Global Union 2020).

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Updated On : 26th Feb, 2022
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