Sunday, September 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

PM for consensus for 8 pc growth
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 28
Stating India could not shy away from the process of globalisation, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today made a fervent appeal for a consensual approach to meet the target of 8 per cent growth rate and sought to assure workers on social security.

Inaugurating the 38th session of the Indian Labour Conference (ILC) here, the Prime Minister said, “There should not be opposition for opposition’s sake”.

“Consensus and opposition politics should not be contradictory. A line has to be drawn somewhere and national interest should be paramount if the country has to achieve 8 per cent growth rate and deal with poverty and unemployment”, Mr Vajpayee said.

India could not afford to ignore the developments in the wake of globalisation, Mr Vajpayee pointed out making it clear that in a bid to accelerate economic reforms, “we shall never dilute our commitment to broadening the social security net for workers”.

Appealing for support to the government’s agenda of labour reforms both within and outside Parliament, the Prime Minister said reform was no longer an option but only the right choice to be made.

The needs of labour had to be adequately met and the interests of workers safeguarded, he said, adding that there could be no room for exploitation of labour by capital.

Referring to the Second Labour Commission Report on issues concerning the welfare, safety and security of labour, the Prime Minister said the recommendations were being studied and suitable action would follow only after that.

Promising the trade unions that the government would give serious consideration to their demands for raising ceiling limit of bonus and for introducing suitable changes in trade union recognition by identifying a truly representative negotiating agency, Mr Vajpayee said there was tremendous scope for improvement in the content and quality of social security schemes.

Lauding the tripartite institution of ILC, Mr Vajpayee said though much had changed in the economic context, the industrial setting and the labour scenario in the past four decades, the usefulness of a tripartite platform had not diminished.

On the need for periodic changes in labour laws, he said in doing so “the needs of labour have to be adequately met, and the interests of workers have to be safeguarded”.

The Prime Minister said there could be no room for exploitation of labour by capital.

Referring to the small-scale sector, he said it employed many more people than the big and medium industries, accounted for more exports and provided enormous employment opportunities.

“What we need is to reform our laws, our institutions and our systems so that investments can successfully chase opportunities and potential is transformed into actual performance,” he said.

Mr Vajpayee said since labour reforms played an important part in growth strategy and created new employment opportunities for the skilled as well as unskilled labour, it (reform) was “the only right choice” to be made.

The Prime Minister said though godowns were overflowing with foodgrains, people could not afford to buy them in the absence of power to purchase, which was due to unemployment.

He said to tide over this problem, the government had launched various schemes and Food for Work was one of them as part of efforts for providing social security to the poor people in the unorganised sector.

Stating that incidents of starvation deaths were a matter of concern and shame for any nation, the Prime Minister dismissed reports of such deaths in parts of Orissa saying that a team had come to the conclusion that the deaths were because of old age and disease and not because of hunger.

He also said the recommendations of the Second Labour Commission were likely to be implemented by the Budget session of Parliament next year after holding parleys with various groups for a consensus.

He said if the demands of the trade unions were legitimate, they would be accepted. But at the same time, the trade unions should be prepared to listen to the views of the government whose resources were limited.

In his address, Union Labour Minister Sahib Singh Verma said to tackle the problem of unemployment, the government had evolved a strategy of accelerating the pace of economic growth with emphasis on sectors having potential for additional employment.

He said ESIC was considering a proposal to provide social security medical care cover to workers rendered jobless through VRS for one year or till they were able to find alternative employment, whichever was earlier.

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