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GDP up but job security falls: Only 16% earn regular wage

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Dinesh Manjhi

At 19, Dinesh Manjhi is the breadwinner for his family–three siblings and a 55-year-old mother. But his tryst with adulthood actually began at age 12, when his father took him on a 1,500-km journey from their home in Bihar to a farm in Punjab to work as a seasonal worker. This way, he added a valuable extra to what the father saved to bring back home every season.

Manjhi’s father died of illness in 2013 and the funeral costs left him struggling with a massive debt. So the youngster juggled jobs through the year. When he wasn’t labouring in Gurdaspur in northwestern Punjab, he was at home in Dumri, a village in Buxar district in western Bihar, eking out a living as a construction worker in the neighbouring town of Muzaffarpur. This earned him Rs 100-Rs 150 day which was much better than what seasonal farm work earned him in Dumri.

Manjhi’s story, narrated by Sajjad Hassan in a chapter in the India Exclusion Report (2013-14), echoes the life of those described by Jan Breman, a Dutch sociologist, as “wage hunters and gatherers”.

No more than 16.5% of Indian workers earn a regular wage or salary, according to the Fourth Annual Employment & Unemployment report (2013-14), the latest available data. In another estimate, made in the same report, three in four Indian households (78%) had no one earning a regular wage or salary.

On the other hand, the proportion of casual labourers in the workforce is considerable, 30.9% and growing. Contract and casual work have been growing in India at the expense of regular employment. In more than a decade, between 1999 and 2010, the share of contract workers in total organised employment rose from 10.5% to 25.6%. But the share of directly employed workers fell from 68.3% to 52.4% in the same period.

Even regular workers were appointed increasingly on short-term contracts, with little or no social security. This is how the increasing informality in the organised labour market has blurred distinctions between formal and informal labour.

Job, but no safety net: 68% workers on contract have no written contract

The informal sector generates around 50% of India’s gross domestic product (GDP) and informal employment opportunities, in both organised and unorganised sector. It employs more than 90% of country’s workforce. The total figure for formal and informal employment in unorganised sector is 82.7%.

Of the current workforce of around 475 million, around 400 million, considerably larger than the population of the USA, are employed with little job security or any formal entitlement to call upon the protection of the labour law regime.

Contrary to the promises of successive governments to generate more employment opportunities, the reality has been more uncertainty, fewer jobs and even less security. Even by the government’s own reluctant admission, “the economy has indeed experienced high rates of growth in the post reforms period [but,] the optimism on employment creation, however, has not been realized to the fullest extent.” In the decade 1999-00 to 2009-10, while GDP growth accelerated to 7.52% per annum, employment growth stayed at just 1.5%, less than the 2% annual employment growth rate seen over the four decades starting 1972-73.

Written job contracts with formal agreements and associated legal responsibilities (at least on paper) are becoming increasingly rare in India: About 93% of casual workers and even 68.4% of contract workers do not have any written job contracts, according to this government report. Even among more formal wage/salaried employees, about 66% are reported to be working without a written job contract.

Casualisation of labour has doubled in rural India

According to government estimates, labour relations in such instances are based mostly on casual employment, kinship or personal and social relations rather than contractual arrangements with formal guarantees. Beyond the realms of the formal/legal, it is the ever-presence of extra-legal modes of mobilisation and disciplining (harnessing caste, kinship or community relations) that has received further fillip with the larger trend towards informalisation and casualisation of workforce.

This refers to a workforce which is without any social security and employment benefits and whose labour rights (such as maternity benefits, paid annual or sick leave, overtime pay, unionise, etc) are being diluted over the years in the name of “reforms”.

The table below reflects that the extent of casualisation of labour has doubled since 1983 in rural areas whereas it has slightly increased in the urban areas. This, however, does not take into account the self-employed and the salaried.

Source: India Labour and Employment Report 2014, Institute for Human Development Figures in percentage

SC, ST or Muslim workers more likely to land casual jobs

The brunt of this casualisation is borne by the most oppressed sections of Indian society. A scheduled caste (SC), scheduled tribe (ST) or Muslim worker is considerably more likely than others, both in rural and urban India, to end up with a casual job. Muslims in general seem to be the worst sufferers of rampant casualization amongst all the oppressed categories. Amongst them urban Muslims seem to be more pronounced in their proportion in casual labour as can be observed in the table below. Between 2004-05 and 2011-12, there was also a rise in the percentage of SCs and STs engaged in casual employment. In urban areas, however, the corresponding figures show a slight decrease in the same period.

Workers In Casual Or Contractual Employment,
By Social Group

Source: National Sample Survey 2004-05 and 2011-12 estimates
Note: * the figures for Muslims have been taken as the average of corresponding figures for Upper Muslims (general caste) and Lower Muslims (SCs, STs and OBCs) as defined in the NSS data.

What explains this marginal decline of casual workers among SCs and STs in urban areas? The National Sample Survey data show a spike in rural-urban migration stream from 18.8% to 19.5% between 1999–2000 and 2007–2008. However, recent studies show a decline in the contribution of migration to urban population growth. This can possibly be explained by the argument that migrant workers are finding it difficult to get a toehold in cities.

Half of casual workers could be seasonal migrants hit by agri distress

Who, then, is filling the gap between the rising ranks of rural destitute and the faltering ranks of permanent migrants to the cities? They are the seasonal or circulatory labour migrants who remain virtually invisibilised, informalised and unenumerated–the footloose migrants who make their ends meet by adding up both their seasonal remittances and the income from the shrinking agricultural sector.

An estimated 12.24 million people are seeking work for two to six months as per NSSO data. Of these, 77% are resident in rural areas and more than two-thirds migrated to urban areas. Some estimates show that about 35–40 million labourers–almost half the number of casual labourers outside agriculture–could be seasonal migrants.

The linkages between casualisation and seasonal migration become evident as some studies have estimated that 90-95% of casual workers are migrants from a shrinking countryside.

A peep into the state of agriculture would complete the picture. It would demonstrate as to how the most vulnerable (SCs and STs) are the ones who are being affected the most, making them vulnerable enough to join the reserves of casualised circulatory employment with almost no social protection.

Today, over 80% of the total land holdings belong to marginal farmers who own less than 1 hectare, according to household land ownership data from the National Sample Survey Office. STs are over-represented among the landless, and SCs among marginal landowners. Considering 75% of all migrants come from marginal landowning households, one can estimate how they overwhelmingly would be from the most marginalised sections of Indian society.

Many of them living under crushing debt, like Manjhi, are prone to get locked into a debt-migration cycle through some form of labour bondage. Here, earnings from migration are used to repay debts incurred at home or in the destination areas, thereby cementing the migration cycle and resulting in conditions of neo-bondage in informalised settings propped up on caste/kinship equations.

The construction sector which is the second highest employment generator after agriculture in India, and the brick kiln industry that feeds it–these generate the classic cases of debt-migration cycle.

So, the destitution in the countryside, the casualisation of labour, and the erosion of their labour rights are not just the results of a flawed model of development. This neo-liberal model of development is also made possible by this despair in the countryside and increasing informalisation of labour. The burden of this “growth”, as is evident, falls on the most disadvantaged.

Vagaries of informal sector can’t support progressive interventions

Different data sources reveal, for instance, that the incidences of infant mortality rate (IMR) (according to National Family Health Surveys or NFHS 2 & 3) and malnutrition (according to NFHS 3) still remain high (if not the highest) among SCs and STs. This highlights the lack of opportunities for these marginalised communities in all facets of human development.

This also highlights the fact that no meaningful intervention is feasible in terms of addressing the deprivations faced by the marginalised populations as long as the vagaries and insecurities of the informal labour market remain. One cannot wish for improving the abysmally high rate of IMR amongst STs while forcing them into casualised labour in construction with no guaranteed (or enforceable) maternal benefits or other social protections.

The trend is that of “vulnerabilisation of the labour markets”, as G Vijay an Assistant Professor at the School of Economics University of Hyderabad, calls it, wherein vulnerable sections of the labour force are consciously chosen as they would be materially and socially compelled to accept greater deprivation with least resistance to the dehumanising conditions of informalisation. Till this is acknowledged and addressed at its fundamentals, Dinesh Manjhi and millions like him will continue to shuttle between the distressed countryside and the unwelcoming megacities.

(In arrangement with IndiaSpend.org, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Vivek Mishra and Anirban Bhattacharya are researchers at the Centre for Equity Studies. The views expressed are those of IndiaSpend. Feedback at [email protected])

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Keeping out of RECP ‘backward leap’ for India: Anand Sharma

However, the Congress had raised concern over joining the RCEP, set to become the world’s largest trading body of 15 nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Anand Sharma

New Delhi: India’s decision to stay out of the transnational economic grouping RECP was “ill-advised” and a “backward” step, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said on Tuesday.

“India’s decision of not joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is unfortunate and ill-advised. It is in India’s strategic and economic interests to be a part of the process of Asia-Pacific integration.

“Withdrawal has negated years of persuasive negotiations for India to be accepted as part of RCEP. We could have negotiated safeguards to protect our interests. Keeping out of the RCEP is a backward leap,” said Sharma, who was Commerce Minister in the UPA government.

Sharma’s statement comes after former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram criticised the Modi’s government stand on RCEP but said that he will reserve his decision till the Congress takes official position on the issue.

Chidambaram had also expressed his dismay over the speech by Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar on Monday, where he railed against trade agreements and praised the virtues of protectionism.

“Mr Jaishankar is speaking in the language and in the words that I heard in the 1970s and 1980s,” Chidambaram said.

“There are pros and cons to India joining the RCEP. But the debate has never taken place in Parliament or among the people or involving the opposition parties. It is another bad example of a centralised decision-making unacceptable in a democracy,” he added.

However, the Congress had raised concern over joining the RCEP, set to become the world’s largest trading body of 15 nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

After eight years of hard negotiations, the ASEAN nations (comprising Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) signed the trade pact with five FTA partners — China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand — on Sunday.

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ARNAB GOSWAMI MOVES SUPREME COURT CHALLENGING BOMBAY HIGH COURT ORDER DENYING INTERIM BAIL

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Arnab Goswami

Republic TV Editor-in-Chief, Arnab Goswami has moved the Supreme Court challenging the Bombay High Court order of November 9 declining him interim bail in the case of abetment to suicide of interior designer, Anvay Naik and his mother Kumud Naik.

“Innocent, custody not required”: Seven Grounds raised by Arnab Goswami in his bail plea

The application filed through Advocate-on-Record Nirnimesh Dube comes on a day when Alibaug Sessions Court is hearing the revision application filed by Raigad Police seeking police custody of Goswami who is currently lodged in Taloja jail.

The High Court in its November 9 order had noted that Goswami has a remedy under law to approach the sessions court concerned and seek regular bail.

The High Court was hearing petitions filed by Goswami and two other accused Feroze Shaikh and Nitish Sarda challenging their arrest in the case and seeking interim bail.

Relative of Feroze Shaikh, Parveen Shaikh has also moved the Supreme Court seeking bail for the accused.

Republic TV’s Pradip Bhandari urges CJI SA Bobde to intervene in “human rights violation” of Arnab Goswami

Bombay High Court held that no case was made out for Goswami’s release under its extraordinary writ jurisdiction, thereby rejecting the interim application moved by the Republic TV Editor-in-Chief.

A Division Bench of Justices SS Shinde and MS Karnik also clarified that the remedy to apply for regular bail under Section 439 of the Code of Criminal procedure shall remain unaffected.,

“Petitioner has an alternate and efficacious remedy under section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to apply for regular bail. At the time of concluding the hearing of Applications, we had made it clear that if the petitioner, if so advised, to apply for regular bail under section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure before the concerned Court, then, in that case, we have directed the concerned Court to decide the said application within four days from filing of the same.”

Goswami has been in judicial custody since November 4 following his arrest in relation to 2018 case which was initially closed in 2019 before it was re-opened in 2020 based on a representation made by Naik’s daughter, Adnya Naik to the State Home Minister, Anil Deshmukh.

Goswami had sought interim bail on the ground that his detention was illegal.

The court refused to express their opinions on the merits of the case and the arrest stating that the prayers pertaining to these aspects will be considered when the main plea to quash the FIR is considered in December.

The High Court also clarified that the observations they had made in the order are prima facie in nature and confined to the adjudication of the interim application for bail.

Goswami was arrested on the morning of November 4 from his residence in Mumbai, Goswami and was taken to Alibaug, where the Chief Judicial Magistrate refused to remand him in police custody. Naik and his mother had committed suicide at their farm house in Alibaug.

The magistrate’s court remanded Goswami and two others who were named in Naik;s suicide note to judicial custody till November 18.

Goswami was initially kept at a local school which has been designated as a COVID-19 centre for the Alibaug prison.

On Sunday, he was shifted to the Taloja jail in Raigad district after he was allegedly found using a mobile phone while in judicial custody.

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Over 92K new corona cases in India, total over 54-lakh mark

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Coronavirus iraq covid 19

With another significant single-day spike of 92,605 coronavirus cases, India’s total tally on Sunday breached the 54-lakh mark to reach 54,00,620 cases even as 1,133 more COVID-19 deaths were recorded in 24 hours.

Of the total cases, 10,10,824 are still active, 43,03,043 patients cured and discharged, whereas another 86,752 lost the battle against the viral disease.

While the recovery rate stands at 79.68 per cent, the fatality rate has come down to 1.61 per cent, data from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.

Maharashtra continues to be the worst-hit state with 11,89,815 cases, including 32,216 deaths, followed by Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Uttar Pradesh.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research data, India conducted 12,06,806 sample tests in a single day on Saturday, taking the total samples tested so far to 6,36,61,060.

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