State govt. did not consult Economic Advisory Council, says before it amended Factories Act: Jean Drèze 

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The Tamil Nadu government did not consult the Economic Advisory Council before it got the amendment to the Factories Act, 1948, through the Assembly on April 21. The amendment has since been put on hold.

The Council, which boasts Nobel laureate Esther Duflo, former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian, development economist Jean Drèze and former Union Finance Secretary S. Narayan, was established to advise Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on economic matters concerning the State.

The strong opposition to the amendment from the Congress, the CPI, the CPI(M), the VCK, the MDMK, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi and Tamizhaga Valvurimai Katchi — all allies of the ruling DMK — and the Opposition parties, including the AIADMK and the PMK, has forced the government to put the amendment on hold. On April 24, Mr. Stalin said his government would put on hold further action on the Factories (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2023, aimed at flexible work hours in factories.

Mr. Drèze told The Hindu, “I can assure you that the Economic Advisory Council was not consulted… The eight-hour limit on a normal working day is one of the most basic labour rights. I hope Tamil Nadu will defend it, regardless of what other States may do.”

He said this amendment, if revived, would be detrimental to women in particular. “The idea that workers should be free to decide whether to work for 8 hours or 12 hours ignores the overwhelming power of the employers to dictate the “choice” of workers. This would be particularly detrimental to women.”

Mr. Drèze said the amendment , in the current form, would give the government “arbitrary powers to waive six essential sections” of the chapter of the Factories Act on the working hours for any group of factories. “…workers would instantly lose the hard-won legal rights that help to protect them from exploitation,” he said.

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