National Commission on Labour (1967)||
22.11 State intervention in India has assumed a more direct form. The State has enacted procedural as also substantive laws to regulate industrial relations. We have referred to them in the different chapters. Without going into detail, we propose to examine here the basis of the authority of the State in regulating industrial disputes and the form it has assumed in the country. In the distant past. State intervention in labour matters was for protecting the commercial interests of the British rulers. Later, pressures from the public to guard the interests of workers in the face of difficulties created by the operation of the economic system prevailed. More recently, and particularly since Independence, State intervention in labour matters has been necessitated by the larger need for regulation of the economy with the focus on rapid overall growth. Apart from planned development, the requirements of the Welfare State envisaged in our Constitution have been another important reason for State intervention.
22. 12 Apart from the different roles played by the State as mentioned earlier, there are others which have a special significance in our context. The first is that of the State as an employer, which has two aspects, i.e., direct employment of labour by the State and employment in industrial corporations constituted by the State. Handling of industrial relations in the case of its own employees, to whom all legislation framed for industry is applicable, falls in this category. This function of the State as an employer has been there over a very long period; it has been there even prior to Independence. To this was added another when, as a matter of policy, it was decided to operate a mixed economy wherein industries were to be run by both private entrepreneurs and the State. The role of the State in these matters has been watched with great interest in recent years. The policy statements in this regard show that as an employer the State binds itself to the rules which it frames for private employers. Where standards of good employment are disparate, the State seeks to set standards with a view to influencing the employers in the private sector. While this is
the policy, in practice, it so happens that there is a fair amount of interaction between what the employers do for their employees in the two sectors. And this inter-action is influenced by the new consciousness among the workers and ease of communication within the working class.
22.13 The second and an equally significant role which the State has to play in our context is the outcome of its Federal Constitution and the fact that "labour" is a subject in the Concurrent List for the purpose of legislation. It has been a tradition in the country for long that the Central Government assumes the responsibility of enacting legislation on many aspects affecting labour, whereas the State Governments look after implementation, though they can legislate on their own also. In either case, a considerable measure of consultation has been the rule; and yet there have been cases of disparities in conditions of work because of differences or inadequacies in administrative arrangements to implement the legislation. As a result, cases have been reported where industries which do not involve heavy capital investment favour operating in States where implementation of labour legislation is relatively less onerous on the employer. And this may create problems of inter-State coordination which the Central Government has to sort out. In the years to come, when the Central and State Governments may have different political ideologies, this question is likely to assume an added significance.
22.14 It is obvious, therefore, that the State cannot be a silent spectator in the development of healthy labour practices. It has to play a role which the parties to a dispute find acceptable. In what follows, we propose to assess the efficacy of the institutional arrangements developed in India for evolving and implementing labour policies and see how the shortcomings in these arrangements could be minimised. We also propose to review the Centre/ State relationship in the field of labour and evolve recommendations to put the same on a sounder footing. The concept of a common labour code and its role in this context will also be examined.