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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 02 May 2023

Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 02 May 2023


  1. The Dismantling of Workers’ Protections
  2. India’s SDG pledge and strategy

The Dismantling of Workers’ Protections


  • The purpose of International Labour Day (also referred to as May Day), which is observed on May 1 each year, is to remember the sacrifices and struggles made by the labour movement.
    • The International Congress of socialist parties convened in Paris in 1889 and decided to observe Labour Day, also known as Worker’s Day, on May 1.
  • Recently, the governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka also extended the number of working hours per day.
    • The Tamil Nadu government suspended the work hours amendment to the Factories Act in response to opposition.


GS Paper-3: Effects of Liberalization on the Economy, Ease of Doing Business, Labour Reforms

Mains Question

The governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu recently extended the number of hours employees can work each day. Examine the effects of longer working hours on labour productivity and rights in light of these changes. (150 Words)

Key Points:

  • The International Labour Organisation adopted the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention in 1919, which set a 48-hour workweek and a limit of eight hours per day for working hours.
  • The Convention was ratified by British India on July 14, 1921.
    • In the ensuing decades, the working class launched several agitations in numerous nations to win the right to an eight-hour workday.

Regulating working hours:

  • The theory of economic development postulated that as a result of technological advancements and innovations, and with economic prosperity, people will have more leisure time to participate in sociocultural activities, and that social welfare will improve.
  • However, there is still a persistent urge to modify, or rather raise, the number of working hours.
    • Several States amended the Factories Act, 1948 using the ordinance route when COVID-19 hit India.
  • The governments of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka extended the number of hours employees can work each day.

Justification for the Increase in Working Hours

  • The increase in working hours is being justified by the fact that employers, particularly in the garment and electronic industries, have pushed for a flexible work schedule so they can manage export orders.
    • Even if an initiative compromises on labour and human rights, mainstream economists in India support it as long as it boosts exports.
      • They advise taking cues from nations like Bangladesh (for apparel) and Vietnam (for electronics).
      • Bangladesh was listed as one of the ten worst nations where labour rights are not guaranteed in 2022, according to the Global Right Index published by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).
      • The ITUC gave Vietnam a rating of 4, which denotes a pattern of systematic labour rights violations, on a scale of 1 (best) to 5+ (worst) for respect for workers’ rights.
      • As a result, the comparator nations that neoliberals use are infamous for their subpar record of labour rights.
    • Regional governments provide numerous subsidies and exemptions under the guise of “ease of doing business” in order to draw in foreign and domestic investment.
      • In addition to quantitative subsidies, these multinational corporations advocate for qualitative subsidies.
      • In a peaceful industrial environment with access to cheap and skilled labour, employers prefer weak or no unions.
      • While India pays the price for training the workforce, multinational corporations profit.
      • This slow path to development taken by the majority of capitalistic businesses results in a race to the bottom.
    • Despite the fact that these businesses tend to offer highly skilled positions, which contribute to an increase in the number of unemployed people, they do not significantly lower unemployment rates.
    • Increasing the number of hours worked per day while maintaining the eight-hour rule is a common request.
  • For instance, Karnataka has raised the daily work limit to 12 hours while still adhering to the weekly limit of 48 hours.
    • The system is also changing from a three-shift system to a two-shift system.

Economic Justification:

  • The employee spends about nine hours per day in the factory.
    • The businesses believe that maximising the time that employees spend in the factory will increase production.
    • They would be able to reduce their travel expenses and transaction costs.
  • Since some workers must travel two hours to get to work, it is likely that they will be away from home for at least 14 hours.
    • It can be challenging, even for younger workers, to work 12 hours and travel 2 hours each day for four consecutive days.
  • Marginal productivity will eventually decline, possibly to the detriment of employers.
    • Workers who are older become less productive, extremely tired, and more likely to be involved in workplace accidents.

Way Ahead:

  • In the name of business convenience, we are turning the clock back to the 19th century by increasing working hours and ensuring job insecurity.
  • States can change labour laws with little opposition because of the lack of political cohesion and trade union cooperation.
  • Human resources professionals are employed by businesses who advocate for a work-life balance but remain silent when employees are treated poorly.
  • The rule of law should be applied to business in accordance with the principles of justice and equity that form the cornerstones of our Constitution.
  • That will guarantee a vishwas-filled environment and call upon the animal spirits required for explosive growth.
  • Governments, capital, and labour are the three main stakeholders, and each of their interests must converge.
    • Each of these parties involved has personal interests that might not necessarily line up with the objectives of economic performance.
  • In order to achieve the objectives of industrial policy and labour right protection, governments at various levels must assume responsibility for coordinating and disciplining the stakeholders.
  • The Union government is not overly concerned about the delay in the new labour codes’ implementation.
  • This May Day, trade unions have many reasons to be concerned.


As a reminder of the significant role the working class has played in our society, Labour Day is observed all over the world to promote awareness of workers’ rights and protect them from exploitation.

India’s SDG Pledge and Strategy


  • The Prime Minister expressed concern that “progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) seems to be slowing down” in his remarks at the first gathering of Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors under India’s G20 Presidency.
  • Despite the advancements made globally to date, India’s sheer population size means that India’s success is inextricably linked to the achievement of the SDGs globally.India has a lofty goal of overtaking China as the third-largest economy in the world within the next ten years, and it must make sure that this growth leads to advancements in social and human development.


GS Paper-2: Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation

Mains Question

How far along is India in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals? Talk about India’s inconsistent performance on SDG indicators and the lessons that could be drawn from its mobilisation for COVID-19 in order to achieve the SDGs. (250 Words)

India’s Mixed Progress 

  • The SDGs framework sets targets for 231 distinct indicators across 17 SDG goals related to economic development, social welfare, and environmental sustainability, to be met by 2030. India has made some progress in this regard.
  • A recent study evaluates India’s development on 33 welfare indicators, covering nine SDGs, and presents a conflicting picture of encouraging and unsettling trends.
  • Positive trends: o The good news is that India is “On-Target” to meet 14 of the 33 SDGs. This includes indicators for neonatal and under-five mortality, complete immunisation, improved sanitation, and electricity access, all of which have seen significant improvements in the last five years.
    • Currently, the country’s neonatal and under-five mortality rates are both “On-Target,” but 286 and 208 districts (out of 707 districts) are not.
  • 129 districts that are not on track to meet this SDG indicator are not included in significant progress on access to improved sanitation.
    • Between 2016 and 2021, the vast majority of districts saw improvements in indicators like ending adolescent pregnancy, lowering multidimensional poverty, and women having bank accounts.
  • Concerning Trends: o Regrettably, not all districts receive equal treatment under the national “On-Target” designation.
    • The current rate of improvement is insufficient to meet SDG targets for 19 out of the 33 SDG indicators.
    • Despite a push by the government for clean cooking fuel, more than two-thirds (479) of districts are still “Off-Target.”
    • Approximately 415 and 278 districts, respectively, are “Off-Target” for improved water and handwashing facilities.
    • Women’s empowerment and gender inequality: In India, no district has yet been able to end the practise of girl-child marriage before the age of 18.
  • More than three-fourths (539) of districts will be unable to reach the SDG target of 0.5% by 2030 if progress continues at the current rate.
  • It should come as no surprise that India needs to give other pressing issues top priority, such as teen pregnancy (15–19 years old) and partner violence (physical and sexual) that can be linked to child marriage.
  • Only 56% of women in India report owning a mobile phone, with 567 districts still being ‘Off-Target’, despite the country’s overall expansion of mobile phone access (93% of households).

Lessons learned from the COVID-19 strategy

  • Optimisation approach: o It is best to view the creation and implementation of a policy response to a pressing issue as a “optimisation problem” that depends on political will, responsive administration, sufficient resources, and reliable data.
    • The COVID-19 pandemic was approached by India using a “optimisation” strategy, and as a result, it received the attention and resources required for success.
    • India’s approach to achieving its SDG targets can be improved and informed by the lessons learned from this strategy.
  • Strong and enduring political leadership: India’s success with COVID-19 was made possible in large part by strong and enduring political leadership, which was backed by a flexible administrative structure at all levels, from the federal to the local.
    • It is now urgently necessary to develop a similar mission-oriented ethos that is assessment-oriented and provides sufficient support for achieving India’s district-level SDGs.
  • Existing digital infrastructure and fresh initiatives: India’s COVID-19 success was also made possible by fresh, homegrown initiatives like the Co-WIN data platform and the Aarogya Setu application, as well as by the country’s existing digital infrastructure.
    • By combining its numerous siloed platforms into an integrated digital resource for district administrators as well as state and national policymakers, India must implement a coordinated, public data platform for population health management.
  • Targeted SDG strategy delivered at scale: o This strategy must be implemented as quickly as India’s COVID-19 relief package.
    • The Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, which cost 1.70 lakh crore and was later increased to nearly 6.29 lakh crore, was implemented by the Indian government in March 2020. It included the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana, which will cost 3.91 lakh crore until December 2022 and will cover 800 million people.
    • A combination of spending to provide direct in-kind and financial support, as well as initiatives aimed at reviving the economy, small businesses, and agriculture, was key to this relief programme.
    • This was crucial in reducing the negative effects of COVID-19, particularly for weaker socioeconomic groups.
    • It also quantifiably illustrated the worth of a proactive, publicly funded initiative with a focus on enhancing people’s wellbeing.


  • There is no historical precedent for a democratic and economically open country on how to deliver development to a billion or more people in a way that is healthy and sustainable, so India needs to innovate a new policy path in order to meet the aspirations of its people in the decade to come. However, by successfully delivering a real-time response to the COVID-19 pandemic, India has demonstrated that it is possible to deliver at scale in such an ambitious and comprehensive manner.
  • A similar concerted, trailblazing, nationwide effort would be necessary in order for the country to meet its SDG targets, especially those that are related to population health and well-being, basic quality infrastructure, and gender equality.

March 2024