Rajya Sabha

February 8, 2017

Dola Sen speaks on The Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2017

Dola Sen speaks on The Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2017


Honourable Chairman Sir, Thank you for letting me speak on this important Bill.

Sir, India has a 472 million labour market. Out of this, 90% of the workforce is in the informal and unorganised sector. It contributes 45% of the GDP. However, workers are deprived of the benefits of formal employment like provident fund and health insurance (like ESI), bonus, dearness allowance etc. Many workers complain that employers pay them less than the minimum wages mandated by States anc Centre. This is today’s reality. I am sorry to say, the Central Labour Directorate has not been able to exert the law of the land.

Sir, it is important to protect the interests of the workers and labourers. I am glad that a reformed labour code will ensure that wages reach the workers in a timely manner.

However, this Bill states that all wages must be transferred to the bank account of the employer, unless the Government specifically notifies a certain amount, which may be paid in cash. This may pose a difficulty for many who still do not have bank accounts.

This Government constantly talks about cashless India, Digital India. However, does the Government know how many people have bank accounts? The harsh reality is that 80% of women don’t have bank accounts in India. More than 50% of workers do not have bank accounts till date.

To add to the misery of the workers, the restrictions on cash withdrawal have still not been removed by the government. How will the poor worker stand in the ATM queues during his work hours to withdraw money? How will he pay service to banks? Sir, Political parties can receive Rs 2,000 cash donation but the poor worker cannot.

For example, I want to add, if an entrepreneur has to pay Rs 2 crore as wages or salaries of workmen per week, say on Saturday. He is also entitled to withdraw only Rs 24,000 from his bank account per week. Obviously there are no needs for lockout. Factories after factories are being closed due to lockouts affecting the workers.

Sir, in Bengal, there are over 4 lakh people working in the tea gardens. There are over 5 lakh people working in the jute mills. Over 1.5 crore people are associated with tea industry, over 2.5 crore people are associated with jute industry. These workers and labourers could not be paid their wages due to demonetisation.

Sir, demonetisation has caused hardship to all workers and labourers. After 3 months of pain and agony, over 25 crore daily wageworkers have lost their jobs. Unemployment has increased to 7%.

There is a need to provide a comprehensive social security system for workers in the informal sector. The Government cannot make the poor worker suffer because of its own agenda to go cashless and Digital.