“In short, there are myriad things you can to challenge poor-bashing. Every time you do it, you’re working on cutting edge of a larger movement that’s struggling for justice for people who are poor”
– Jean Swanson – Page 184 –
Poor bashing: The politics of exclusion
First World War took place, because of the ignorance of the rulers of various nations of the world of the importance of taking care of the legitimate needs of the working population around the world. The political rulers went after money-bags and ran the nations to suit the requirements of the businessmen, obviously for the quid pro quo. The gap between the rich and poor widened so greatly that the simmering anger provided the base for social and political unrest.
The result was the World War I. Nothing further is needed to testify to this basic reason for the WW I, than the very Charter of the International Labour Organisation (The preamble of the Constitution of the ILO) founded in 1919.
The Charter declares to the world, that “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice”. It reiterates that “the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled when the conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people”. Proper labour laws alone would secure the “permanent peace of the world”, as identified by the ILO.
1% cornered 53% nation’s wealth
But, the Indian politicians do not care. They are unabashedly placing the entire government machinery at the feet of the ultra-rich businessmen. These politicians do not care to explain to the people, nor do they care to ponder over for themselves, how and why the top 1% of the richest own, as on 14.10.2015, 53% of the country’s wealth. These politicians do not also care how the share of “the poorer half of the population” in the nation’s wealth declined to 4.1% from 5.3% during 2000 and 2015.
The Indian politicians are controlled and managed (or, to put it better, employed) by the ultra-rich businessmen to do their biddings. And, the politicians are happy to be so, happy to remain the slaves of those masters in business. Corporate financing is all about the eagerness of the politicians to be in politics in India. We do not see David Cameroons shifting their own personal effects, after being in power as Prime Minister. Our politicians do not care for the pains of the poor.
These politicians believe that the masses do not count for anything and that they can fool the masses, at any time, and poll their votes. And, in order to aid such politicians in fooling the people, large business firms have ventured into the media business too, even through “hostile take-overs” of visual and print media. These ultra-rich businessmen use their media-power to manipulate public opinion to promote the image of their slaves in politics. The politicians and the b
usinessmen are happy with this kind of reciprocal arrangement between themselves. And that is the cause of all the troubles of the poor. But, the sufferings of the poor is immaterial for these two players who go about their single-minded pursuit only of profit and money for themselves.
In the aftermath of the World War II, Ernest Bevin, the UK Labour Minister stressed, while addressing businessmen, on the need for providing basic economic security to create fairer conditions of living for the working population also. “If profit can be the only motive, the natural corollary is economic disorder, and economic disorder will bring you back to the same position you are in now, ever recurring, and future generations will again pay, in the same form or another, the bitter price we are paying now…” he said.
In the year 1944, the in its 26th session, the ILO which met at Philadelphia had examined the issue and reiterated the same fact. The ILO warned the entire world against exploitation of the poor by the rich.
The Declaration of Philadelphia had also said that the principles set forth in that declaration was “fully applicable to all people everywhere” and its observance or otherwise in any nation is “a matter of concern to the whole civilised world”.
The present Labour Code brought out by the Government of India is totally loaded against the poor. It, simply, treats labour as a commodity and helps only the ultra-rich to exploit whatever money the poor do have.
Some of the apparent defects of the Code are:
1. It drastically reduces the disablement benefits.
2. It confers unfettered power on the Executive to decide the quantum of Sickness Benefits.
3. The Extended Medical Benefit and Extended Sickness Benefit, for which the ESIC is famous for, has been removed from the Social Security scene in toto. ESIC pays While the ESIC gives medical benefit and pays cash benefit too, for about two years and 309 days respectively after the contribution ceases to be payable for the insured persons suffering from various long term diseases as per Reg. 103-A, the proposed Code is totally silent on the issue.
4. Representation of the employers and employees in the decision-making bodies has been so reduced that it makes a mockery of the Council which is projected to be a tripartite body.
5. In the name of extending the facility to homeworkers, the Code makes every householder an employer, who will be subjected to inspection and also prosecution.
6. Enabling politicians in power to exempt almost any and every entity from coverage, by removing the word “substantially” from Sec. 94 of the Code.
7. Enabling the politicians in power to prescribe for themselves the power to impose penalty on the employers.
8. Entertaining notions to hand over the social security arena to private money bags and attempting to reduce the benefits payable and paid to the workforce by the ESI Act, at present.
9. etc., etc.,
“India performed poorly in social security” – ILO
Already, the ILO has, in November 2010, had blasted India for its notorious informal labour practices. “India has performed poorly in providing social security protection to its people until recently with ‘very high vulnerability’ to poverty and informal labour practices in the world, according to a report released by the International Labour Office (ILO) today” Times of India – 16.11.2010. In its first comprehensive ‘World Social Security Report’, the ILO has suggested that India has not done enough in the arena of social security protection, which is reckoned as the “human face of globalisation, in line with its fiscal status”.
In fact, the only thing that the proposed Labour Code can be made use of is to use it to demonstrate before the world how a Welfare Law should not be made.
ESI Act, gives effect to Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Art. 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security”. The High Court of Madras has said, “the object of the (ESI) Act is … to give effect to Art. 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, which assures human sensitivity of moral responsibility of every State that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights” (C. Indira Vs. Senthil & Co. – 2009 (2) LLN. 302). The same court has said of the ESI Act, that “the object of the legislation is to protect the weaker section with a view to do social justice” (Chandramathi Vs. ESIC – 2003 (4) LLN. 1143).
ESI Act, for a new social order with corrective and distributive justice.
Distributive justice which is essential to achieve social and economic democracy has been made available to the citizens of all the civilized nations only through social security schemes. It is only the nations, which implement the social security schemes, which top the list of International Human Development Index. Hon’ble Supreme Court has, in Samatha Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh (1997) 8 SCC 191 (Para 75), observed that “The core constitutional objective of ‘social and economic democracy’ in other words, just social order, cannot be established without removing the inequalities in income and making endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status through the rule of law. The mandate for social and economic retransformation requires that the material resources or their ownership and control should be so distributed as to subserve the common good. A new social order, therefore, would emerge, out of the old unequal or hierarchical social order. The legislative or executive measures, therefore, should be necessary for the reconstruction of the unequal social order by corrective and distributive justice through the rule of law”.
Let the rulers heed to Art. 41 and Art. 42
Art. 41 of the Constitution of India says that “The State shall, within the limits of its economic capacity and development, make effective provision for securing the right ….. to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement, and in other cases of undeserved want”. The Constitution thus, gives direction to the State that in cases of Sickness, disablement and in other cases of undeserved want, the State is to provide “public assistance”. The State cannot, therefore, make provisions for “private assistance” and absolve itself of its Constitutional responsibility.
A BBC study revealed that inequality is the basis of so many social problems. ESIC is an effective instrument in the hands of governments in India to prevent the problems that arise due to inequality. Let the rulers listen to the sage advice of Prof. Adharkar, the Father of Social Security in India, and follow the 8 Fundamental Principles laid down by him and fulfil his 4 Assumptions to make Social Security in India real and really beneficial..