Unless you belong to the ideological Left — and even if you do — it is impossible to argue that India’s complex web of labour regulations serve the public interest.
Simply put, they are part of the reason why 90 per cent of India’s labour force is “informal”, without the basic protections that law ought to have given them. Our labour laws are part of the reason why we have failed our migrant workers, millions of whom have not been paid their wages, have been prevented from going home, were killed on the rails and are trying to walk the long distance home. Over the past few decades, both employers and workers have found a working optimum outside the Kafkaesque labour regime, which more or less worked during normal times, but showed its failings during the coronavirus pandemic-triggered lockdown.
Consider the counterfactual — if a greater proportion of our workforce had enjoyed the basic protections of employment, the migrant crisis might have been less acute.
So, when Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, two Indian states that acutely need new economic engines, surprisingly announce that they intend to do away with a substantial chunk of their labour laws, they deserve the right kind of support.