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NO CHILD WAS DEPRIVED OF ONLINE EDUCATION: JAVADEKAR

During a Q&A hour in Lok Sabha, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar emphasised that nobody was deprived of education in India despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Prakash Javadekar
Prakash Javadekar

Union Minister Prakash Javadekar, in a reply to a query during Question Hour in the Lok Sabha on Mon-day, said that India’s online education surpassed many countries amid the Covid-19 crisis and covered all students across the country.

In his response to the question whether the government has set any guidelines and standard for online education in the country and what kind of mechanism has been devised to ensure that online education abides by the guidelines and standards set by the government, he said our online education system covered students right from class 5 to higher education, after physical activities were barred in schools and colleges due to the Covid imposed lockdown.

“Underprivileged students were also covered” in the online education system for which the government ran 34 educational channels — 22 for higher education and 12 for school education, he added.

Besides this, a programme named ‘Diksha’ has also been implemented through which the government managed to ready millions of lectures.

“Nobody was deprived of education in India despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Education reached everyone without any advertisement,” Javadekar said.

When asked whether the government is going to re-start schools anytime soon, the minister said many states have taken initiative and started schools.

“The education reached everywhere, practically there is no gap now,” he said, adding people who did not even have access to TV, were provided access to mohalla schools.

On the outlay for digital education in the Budget, he said it was an evolving budget, “therefore no fixed amount was given.” But over Rs 600 crore have been incurred as expenditure on digital education from the government’s side, he said.

“I can assure that there will be no dearth of money for this initiative of the Modi- government.” he added.

The minister spoke on the issue amid the din created by the Opposition seeking withdrawal of the three contentious farm laws.

The Congress, DMK, Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiv Sena and other parties trooped near the Speaker’s podium raising slogans against the government after the Question Hour started, soon after the Lower House assembled for the day at 4 p.m.

Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla later adjourned the House till 5 p.m. after Javadekar’s reply. Earlier, the Speaker tried to convince the members to go back to their seats and maintain the dignity of their post by supporting the proceedings of the House.

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Sachin Sinha on how IQLECT’s BangDB is solving data-related problems

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Sachin Sinha, founder and CEO of IQLECT recently joined NewsX for an insightful conversation on data analytics and Artificial Intelligence as part of its special series NewsX India A-List. On a mission to solve data-related problems using AI, his company aims to create a cost-effective AI-enabled data analytics platform. IQLECT’s novel database BankDB performs 2X better than most of the leading big products in the market.

“We want to simplify and democratise the way data is being ingested, processed, and analysed so that any big or small company can leverage the intelligence of data, apply it in the ongoing operations, and take the benefits of the data. We work towards simplifying the whole procedure and make it available for everyone, not just the big enterprises,” said Sinha.

IQLECT presents a method of converging everything data-related to its clients so that one doesn’t need to collect different data from different sources. He shared, “We have created a platform and if you think of it as a black box, then what comes at the top is the set of domain-specific solutions. We have created different applications that cater directly to all kind of domains, where all the user has to do is a sign-up and get ready to receive benefits of the platform.”

Speaking about the range of product lines offered by his company to its clients, Sinha said, “Let’s say if someone is running a consumer internet service, and wants to understand every single user in a better way so that they can ensure engagement to have a better conversion rate at the end of the day, they can use our ShopIQ app. Once you plug it in, you will start getting all the intelligence instantly which is the core of your every single customer on the visitor domain. You can then decide what appropriate action needs to be taken.” When asked about the expansion of his company, he replied that not only big but small businesses are also collaborating with the organisation and the company’s focus is currently on the infrastructure domain.

Talking about their most highlighted product BangDB, a novel database and first of its kind from Asia, that performs 2X better than most of the leading big products in the market, Sinha emphasised, “We want to analyse the data as it is being generated. If you see this from a layman’s perspective, data, like vegetables, are perishable. If you don’t use it immediately, its value gets decreased by 80% so you need to capture the data to extract the intelligence. BangDBcomes with an inbuilt streaming engine and processing workflow which you can utilise to ingest any kind of data. As long as you have BangDB, it can ingest any kind of data irrespective of its shape, colour, and size.” What makes the product novel is that it has been completely built in India from scratch.

On the incorporation of AI in BangDB, he expressed that the product allows the user to have a predictive analysis as it requires latency in terms of rapidness. “You need AI to be present where the data is instead of taking the data to the AI. Since BangDB deals with the data, we can’t offload the responsibility of AI to the user. Hence, what we have done instead is integrate both the AI and the data so the data remains right where the BangDB is. Once you have the BangDB, you have the AI as well as the streaming which will allow you to easily ingest the data and the AI would then do the predictive analysis.”

Throwing light on its market functionality in India, Sinha said that the risk-taking capabilities in the market have increased over the years. BangDB has filed for dozens of patents and already got a few along with backing from many leaders. The community version of the database is available free of cost and allows the user to ingest and extract data and intelligence. As IQLECT looks to take head-on some of the leaders in the global market, he said, “We are the only company from India which has created such a high-core tech platform.”

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FROM A MARGINAL PLAYER TO THE CUSP OF POWER: BJP’S BIG RISE IN BENGAL

The BJP, which had a vote share of 0.58% in the 1982 Bengal Assembly elections, is now all set to take part in a neck-to-neck battle with the current ruling party in the state. Despite facing violent attacks, the party has seen a meteoric rise thanks to its key strategists, the RSS’s careful organisational skills, and the TMC’s many faults.

Debaroopa Bhattacharyya

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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) contested the West Bengal Assembly election for the first time in 1982. The primary objective of the party was to create a nucleus for a future third force in West Bengal politics. The party contested 52 Assembly constituencies and got around 1,29,994 votes in the state.

From a vote share of 0.58% in the Assembly election in 1982 to over 10.16% in the 2016 Assembly elections, and from 0.4% in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections  to over 40% in 2019, the BJP has come a long way in Bengal, laboriously treading on a road mired with thorns of propaganda, bloodshed and violence, losing 130 of its dedicated cadre and over 1,500 still  in captivity, embroiled in false cases filed against them by a ruling regime that seems to be getting increasingly insecure by the growing popularity of the saffron party among the masses. 

The BJP leadership wanted to rejuvenate the party with fresh faces before the 2016 Assembly elections. The central leadership wanted an organisation man and a new face to take on the TMC. Dilip Ghosh was brought in. He hailed from the Jungle Mahal’s Gopiballavpur.

His predecessor had been hesitant to launch full-scale verbal volleys at the Bengal CM, but Dilip Ghosh did not mince words in his scathing attacks upon Mamata Banerjee and her government. People thought the BJP was reluctant to take the TMC head-on, but Dilip’s arrival changed that perception for good. He took on Mamata right, left and centre. It gave confidence to workers and to voters too.

However, that landed him in situations where he and his convoy were attacked several times by the cadre of the ruling party in Bengal. 

Sadly, after Mamata came back to power with an overwhelming majority in 2016, utilising the many attacks on the BJP state president, the BJP was not able to capitalise on plenty of existent issues to launch an aggressive campaign against the TMC. Sambit Pal, in his book The Bengal Conundrum, observes that be it in the May 2018 Panchayat elections or the proposed Rath Yatra in December 2018, the BJP leadership was busier fighting the TMC government in the courts rather than on the streets of Bengal. When the BJP planned five Rath Yatras in December 2018 across the state, culminating in the Modi rally in January 2019 at Kolkata’s Brigade Parade Ground, the TMC refused permission citing law and order issues. The BJP in turn did not aggressively campaign against the Mamata government and instead took the matter to court. Many such incidents exposed the BJP’s lack of organisational capabilities to act as a formidable opposition.

Around this time, the BJP launched the mantra of “win the booths, win the Assembly”. Despite early setbacks, Amit Shah set a target and directed each worker to visit at least 4-5 houses in every booth. The idea was to spread out to around 80,000-odd booths in the state and form a strong organisational net. Over the next year, the BJP recruited around 200 vistaraks for West Bengal. 

In the meantime, attacks on BJP karyakartas continued. In Purba Burdwan Kalna district, BJP MP (nominated) George Becker was attacked when he visited the locality to attend a booth vistarak programme. This was not an isolated incident. Women leaders were not spared either—Mahila Morcha president Locket Chatterjee was also attacked in Birbhum district. BJP Yuva Morcha president Debjit Sarkar was arrested during a bandh called by the party against the killing of a school student in Islampur in North Dinajpur. The students and local people were protesting in Islampur against the appointment of an Urdu teacher when they actually needed teachers in other subjects. The boy met his end when the police opened fire on the agitating crowd. 

THE BACKEND ARCHITECTS

In 2018, while Ram Lal and Shiv Prakash were already looking at boosting the organisational setup in the state, Amit Shah brought in Arvind Menon as deputy to Kailash Vijaywargiya, who was working as an observer for West Bengal. His job was to help Bengal BJP leaders mobilize grassroots workers and leaders to form booth committees, which was the goal of the national president. He started with North Bengal in 2018 to give a necessary boost to the workers and organisation, mixing with villagers and common people, thereby installing confidence in grassroots BJP workers. Meanwhile, Dilip Ghosh, working closely with strategist and defected TMC leader Mukul Roy, declared that the BJP was ready to take on the TMC in 60% of the areas. The BJP state president stood by the state party leaders and kept reiterating that the BJP was ready to take on Mamata Banerjee. 

In 2018, the BJP’s electoral progress and success in the Jungle Mahal districts, especially Jhargram and Purulia, directly reflected the organisational boost. In Jhargram, the BJP bagged the majority of seats among 24 Gram Panchayats and 10 were hung as no party got a majority. In Purulia, the BJP got 10 Zila Parishad seats while the TMC got 25. In the Panchayat Samiti, the BJP was victorious in 142 seats and in Gram Panchayats, they won 644 seats. Mukul Roy can claim credit for this spectacular victory of the saffron camp because he used his sources in the TMC to extract unhappy workers from that party to vote and work for the BJP. 

However, in May 2018, two BJP workers were found dead in Purulia in close succession. One of them was Trilochan Mahato, whose body was found hanging from a tree with the following written on his shirt in Bengali: “This is for indulging in politics from such a young age of 18. Been trying to kill you since the vote. Failed. But today you are dead”. This incident shook the state BJP thoroughly. The murder of two BJP workers in a district where the BJP had fared well exposed, on the one hand, their growing political acceptance and strength and, on the other, their inability and weakness in protecting their own cadre from such violence and atrocities. 

Amit Shah further brought in the architect of Tripura victory, RSS Pracharak Sunil Deodhar, for a brief period to Bengal to assist Shiv Prakash, Arvind Menon and Kailash Vijaywargiya. The result of these behind-the-scenes architects’ relentless perseverance resulted in extending the party’s organization in a large number of villages and towns before the elections in 2019. From 452 mandal committees in 2015, the BJP reached 1280 in 2019. Setting up 12,407 shakti kendras and appointing 10,266 full-time shakti kendra pramukhs, many BJP district units got new party offices, bringing in much enthusiasm among the grassroots workers.

ROLE OF THE BJP IT CELL 

Another organisation that gave the party and its leaders, workers and supporters the much-needed push was the IT Cell. Shiv Prakash brought in Ujjwal Pareek, a Kolkata boy, to head the BJP’s social media team in Bengal. The IT Cell’s job was to operate the “BJP4Bengal” Facebook page as well as its Twitter handle, apart from the 50,000-odd WhatsApp groups. When Mamata Banerjee reacted belligerently to the “Jai Shree Ram” slogan in West Midnapore’s Chandrakona, the IT Cell stitched together a video which asked the question, “Is it a crime to chant Ram’s name in Bengal?”. That video was made viral and it stoked a fire among Bengal’s masses, awakening their dormant Hindu religious sentiments, especially among the youth in the suburbia. 

THE RSS ANGLE

The RSS through its shakhas and other social organisations has been able to influence people at the grassroots immensely. RSS activists don’t work directly for candidates but for ideas and issues which align with the RSS-BJP ideology. They form different organisations in different areas, for instance, in Hooghly during the last elections, they formed an outfit called the Hooghly Zila Janakalyan Samiti. This outfit’s job was to distribute leaflets and carry out a door-to-door campaign.

Until a few years ago, the RSS had about 700 shakhas in South Bengal and about 300 in North Bengal, but the figure went up in South Bengal to 1200 and to 400 in North Bengal by 2018.

It is the RSS which helped to capture and consolidate the Matua vote for the BJP before the 2019 elections, closely working with the Matua  community and organising “mochchab” every fortnight. A “mochchab” is a community programme where members of the community socialise and share a meal together. The RSS used these informal meetings to discuss the NRC and Citizenship Bill/Act to gain the confidence of the community in favour of the saffron camp. Sambit Pal mentions in The Bengal Conundrum how, apart from organising mochchabs, the  RSS also kept working with frontal organisations like the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram which works in tribal areas running hostels and schools like Ekal Vidyalaya and involving people in social activities, mass marriages, etc. The VKA did not directly participate in BJP politics but their social influence helped BJP gain popularity and credibility among tribal and backward populations in North Bengal. Other organisations like the Sree Hari  Satsang Samiti helped the BJP make headway through the RSS activities without much publicity and politicking. 

The Sangh outfits were also like a protective umbrella, always standing in support of Hindu groups whenever there were communal clashes in the state. Saffron flags in minority-dominated remote villages showed how these organisations helped to turn the story around for the BJP and also mobilised Hindu voters across suburban and rural Bengal, observes Pal. 

With every by election in West Bengal since 2016, the BJP has gained in vote shares at the cost of the Left front. This vote shift peaked in the 2019 Lok Sabha election with the BJP winning 18 out of 42 seats. The BJP’s vote share shot from 10% in 2016 to over 40% in 2019, with the Left’s vote share declining from 27% to 7.5%, the Congress’s share collapsing by 7% and the TMC falling by 2%. In numbers, roughly 1 crore voters seem to have shifted their allegiance from the Left towards the BJP. 

Dibyojyoti Basu, a senior journalist, opines that the main reason for the BJP’s rise in Bengal is the tyrannical nature of the Mamata Banerjee government. “Extortion and Chanda Raj are back with a bang in Bengal, much to the consternation of businessmen, commoners and the overall hoi polloi. People are disgusted with the misrule. Thus the cry for change,” he says. 

TMC’S MINORITY APPEASEMENT POLITICS

Excessive minority appeasement by the TMC has also driven the Hindu voters away from it and towards the BJP. Once in power, Mamata Banerjee rolled out several Muslim-specific policies such as granting an allowance or stipend to imams and muezzins, extending scholarships to Muslim students of Class I to X, offering reservation to Muslim OBCs, banning the telecast of a drama series by controversial author Taslima Nasrin on the demand of conservative Muslim clerics, and making Urdu the second official language in districts where the Urdu-speaking population was more than 10%.

The Mamata government also gave a grant of Rs 300 crore to the Aaliah University, which was started during the Left front’s rule, and constructed special hostels for Muslim girls in districts.

Additionally, Mamata Banerjee increased the number of tickets given to Muslims in the Bengal Assembly elections. She covered her head and attended prayers in mosques, mixed Arabic words with Bangla in public meetings, roped in influential urbane Urdu-speaking Muslims and also gave more weightage to Urdu-speaking Muslims in her cabinet as compared to the previous Left government.

This kind of blatant appeasement of minorities has not augured well with most Bengali Hindus. Dibyojyoti Basu adds, “For the sake of Muharram processions the Mamata government postponed the Durga Puja immersion ceremony. The chief minister had also in the recent past objected to Ram Navami celebrations in Bengal.”

Dr Jayanta Gupta, a renowned gynaecologist in Kolkata, says that the TMC has resorted to minority appeasement to expand its vote base without any particular vision for the overall development of the state. The dole-outs have multiplied in 2021 keeping the election in mind, with Maa Canteen serving egg curry and rice for Rs 5, the Swasthya Saathi Card that promises treatment at government and private hospitals at shockingly unrealistic subsidies (no wonder the card is being turned down by most hospitals), financial grants to “paara” clubs (local clubs) working under the TMC banner at the expense of taxpayers’ money, etc.

Rampant corruption unleashed by the ruling party and widespread unemployment are also part of the cancer that is rapidly eroding Bengali society and unabashedly exposing the can of worms that the TMC has opened, resulting in the Bengalis’ patience wearing thin. The citizens of this state are now looking for change and the BJP with its pragmatic vision and nationalistic tone is increasingly finding a place among the masses, Gupta says. 

What further adds to the BJP’s armoury is rampant corruption and widespread unemployment in the state, along with the widespread anger among the Matua community for being stateless and homeless in India for so many decades. The recently passed Citizenship Bill actually fulfils the Matua demand and hence gives the BJP a strong support base in the region. To add to Mamata’s worry is growing claimants for Muslim votes in the state—from AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaisi to the Indian Secular Front is backed by Islamic cleric Pirzada Abbas Siddiqui.

CONCLUSION

If several opinion polls are to be believed, it will be a neck-and-neck contest between the TMC and the BJP. It is already showing signs of going down to the wires for both the camps. It remains to be seen how the BJP will further galvanise public opinion against the ruling regime, now that the CBI enquiry into various scams has engulfed the Chief Minister’s nephew, Abhishek Bandopadhyay, and his wife, Rujira Narula. 

The road to Nabanna still remains an uphill climb for the BJP because the steepest peaks will unravel themselves now that the election schedule has been announced by the Election Commission. 

The writer is founder and editor-in-chief of Tribe Tomorrow Network. The views expressed are personal.

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‘ANGANA MOREY’ HITTING NO. 2 ON BILLBOARD GLOBAL CHART A PLEASANT SURPRISE: SHREYA GHOSHAL

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Singer Shreya Ghoshal recently got candid with NewsX in an exclusive interview as a part of its special series NewsX India A-List, wherein she spoke about her latest song release Angana Morey, her musical journey and more. Angana Morey is garnering a phenomenal response in India and around the world.

Not only the song is being loved by the listeners but is also smashing records of singers like Selena Gomez and has made it to number 2 on Billboard’s Top Triller Global chart. Angana Morey is even more special to Shreya as it is in collaboration with her brother Soumyadeep Ghoshal.

Expressing her gratitude to all the love and appreciation coming her way for Angana Morey, Shreya said, “While making this song, we did not have any such expectations. It’s a pleasant surprise and a great feeling. The fans are rejoicing. Somewhere they always hoped that Shreya or as they call me Shreya Di will make it to the Billboard one day. It’s a sweet gesture, I am elated and hope it’s the start.”

Sharing insights from the making of Angana Morey, she expressed, “Angana Morey was born in the lockdown so it was an interesting experience. Soumyadeep is a fabulous musician. This was our second project together. Over the phone and on video calls, we only talk about music and the possibilities of doing so many different things. He pushed me into it and said that don’t worry about what the trends are or what are people doing off late, you should do whatever you want. That is how Angana Morey was born. This is a very different song from my kitty and that’s why I went Indie. When you are doing independent music, you have no pressure of following any rules. So I broke all of them and did a slightly classical-based number with very modern, electronic and transient, groovy elements in it.” 

Shreya spoke about her first song and how that proved to be a game-changer for her, “The first song that I did would always be the most momentous experience and time of my life. Bairi Piya from Devdas changed my life. I was around 16-years-old. Being called for a song like that by Sanjay Leela Bhansali for a film of that stature was unexpected. It was amazing and since then there has been no looking back. There have been many more such songs, milestones, concerts, world tours, and experiences that have added many more layers to my life and how my journey has moved from here to there but it’s too hard to count them now. I am blessed but I will always look back at my first song, my first film as the most sentimental, the most emotional and important milestone of my life.” On a concluding note, she crooned Ghar More Pardesiya from Kalank.

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Why mental health and psychological fitness is so important in sports

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In a special series on NewsX presented by CatFit, titled ‘Importance Of Mental, Emotional And Psychological Fitness In Sports’, two leading young sportsperson, international cricketer Arundhati Reddy and international badminton player Srishti Jupudi, shared their journeys as sportspersons in India and how mental health plays a major role in them delivering their best performance.

Addressing the importance of mental health and training in sports, Arundhati spoke about how she entered the world of sports at a very fragile age. At the time when she was playing domestic cricket there were certain days when she wasn’t able to perform. She said how she barely knew the importance of mental well-being or a certain frame of mind a sportsperson has to be in to enhance their skill and perform better on the ground. “Especially at such a top level, when you know that you are under scrutiny all the time, it comes to be a huge responsibility. The pressure to perform well is always there and it is very important to be mentally strong and tough,” she said.

Adding to Arundhati’s remarks, Srishti, who embarked on her sports journey in her teenage years, talked about her psychological and mental training. She stated how at the top level, when you are an international and professional sportsperson, it becomes more of an act of psychological warfare. She explained the ‘20:80 formula’ that functions in international sports, which denotes that 20% constitutes one’s skill set and physical training, whereas the larger part, i.e., 80% constitutes mental toughness and the psychological mindset of the player.

”Playing at the top level and surviving in a highly competitive environment has made me realise how strong-headed one has to be. I started following my mentor and coach’s advice for my mental well being and started to observe the changes which occurred in a linear manner, and eventually, I made it my routine,” Srishti added.

She also spoke about her mantras which have helped her keep moving forward and given her strength and resilience. Srishti underlined that one must constantly visualise their goals and work on their growth and progress.

Arundhati also talked about her training regime and how a lot of effort has to be put into hardcore strength and physical training. “We, the Indian team, put a lot of effort in preparing well for tournaments. For me, it’s more about the visualisation of my goals. It was during the lockdown when I started paying attention to my mental health and realised that I had not taken a break in decades. During the lockdown, I had a lot of time and began to do meditation regularly, and it has helped me a lot,” she shared.

Catfit as an organisation has been playing a significant role in improving the overall mental as well as physical well being of sportspersons. Talking about the initiative, Mr Arpan Dixit, Global Head of Catfit, said, “We started back in 2017 when we realised that there is a lack of mental health awareness and a need for mental and psychological trainers for people in sports. Catfit arranged a team of trained psychologists, mental health trainees, nutritionists and physical fitness trainers and began a regime of the military application and special forces tactics for sports.” Explaining this further, he underlined how within this special regime, sportspersons are first given a psychological questionnaire where the team analyses the level of resilience each person has, identifies issues and concerns arising out of the analysis, make a plan for their training and assign them a psychological and mental toughness trainer who is from the special forces or part of the ‘Black Cat’ commandos.

Arundhati then spoke about careers in sports and how parents often hesitate to send their children to the field. She spoke of how her mother has been an inspiration and given her constant support. ”Being a sportsperson herself, my mother has taught me a lot and always motivated me to pursue my dreams and I think every parent should just let their child do what he/she dreams of,” she said.

Wrapping up the conversation, Srishti said that India holds a lot of scope in terms of sports and many government policies and incentives now exist which help even those coming from poor financial backgrounds and other rungs of the social hierarchy. “Even if I have quit playing badminton, I think that my active engagement in sports shall help me forward on the leadership path that I want to embark upon. There are many incentives like Khelo India, different types of quotas are available for sportspersons and there are other avenues one can choose from,” she added.

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HOW THE NEW LABOUR CODES CREATE A WIN-WIN SITUATION

The recently passed labour codes have been restructured to benefit the two major stakeholders in industrial relations: The employer and the labour.

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In keeping with the underlying essence of the mantra “Shramev Jayate”, the government, devoted to the welfare of labour, has undertaken an arduous and long journey to roll out the much-needed labour law reforms. A journey that started several decades ago reached its climax in 2020, the year that saw the passing of the path-breaking labour codes by the Parliament. This is indeed a turning point in the economic history of India which has authenticated the positions of all stakeholders who have been determined in this journey.

The four new labour codes viz. the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, the Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020, the Social Security Code, 2020 and the Wages Code, 2020 envisage to cover over 50 crore workers from the organized, unorganized and self-employed sectors. The erstwhile 29 labour laws have now been subsumed in the simplified, easy to understand and transparent new labour codes, keeping the interest of the labour class at the forefront. The codes are a part of the government’s earnest desire to bring in much needed labour welfare reforms in the country, a task which was not been done for the last seven decades.

The revamped labour laws, in the form of the four labour codes, are essentially both pro-labour and pro-employer – making it a win-win situation for both the stakeholders. The broad benefits that emanate from the re-classification of the labour laws into the four labour codes are far too many and deserve to be transcribed. For the employers, these labour codes enormously decrease the difficulty in compliance due to a wide array of labour laws. That’s not all – they will also facilitate the ease of doing business. For perspective, India’s present ranking on the World Bank’s EODB Index is 63, and it aspires to grab a spot among the top 50 countries in the world.

The biggest positive externality that emerges from these big-bang labour reforms is the fillip that they will impart to employment generation. This will happen without distorting the fundamental features of securing employee rights, safety, security and health of workers, and the standardization of operating definitions under the different labour laws. The key mantras behind these labour reforms are essentially two-fold: simplification and rationalization. For example, the provision of a single license/single registration and single return will aid in saving precious time and monetary resources. Moreover, the cost of compliance will significantly come down as there will be a single, decentralised authority for execution.

The benefits that accrue for employees and workers are also multifarious. For instance, under the Social Security Code, 2020 a provision has been made to formulate various schemes for providing comprehensive social security to workers in the unorganised sector. The creation of a “Social Security Fund” on the financial side in order to implement these schemes is a step in the right direction. Besides, the Social Security Code envisages bringing within the ambit of social security work related to newer forms of employment like platform workers or gig workers, which have been created due to fast-evolving technology. India is one of the very few countries where this unprecedented and bold step of including workers of this category under social security has been taken.

It is also for the first time that a fixed term employee working for a determined period on a contract basis has been given the right of social security just like a regular employee. With the intention of making a nationwide database for the unorganised sector workers, registration of all these workers would be done through an online portal on the basis of self-certification through a hassle-free and easy-to-understand procedure. It would facilitate the extension of the benefits of various social security schemes to beneficiaries in the unorganised sector.

The most important factor for getting a job is to get access to information regarding job vacancies. With this objective in mind, it has been made compulsory for all establishments with 20 or more workers to periodically report the vacancy position in their respective establishments. This information would also be made available online.

Under the Occupational Safety, Health & Working Conditions Code, 2020 there is a provision for a free health check-up once a year by the employer for workers who are above a certain age. Besides, getting an appointment letter from the employer has been made a legal right for the first time.

It is an open secret that, until now, it took years for worker disputes to be resolved. The Industrial Relations Code, 2020 visualizes sincere efforts for resolving such disputes, not just effectively but also in a transparent and time-bound manner. A provision for two members instead of just one member in the Industrial Tribunal has been made. Therefore, in case of the absence of one member, work can still be undertaken without unwarranted delays. In case the disputes are not getting resolved at the conciliation stage, provisions have been kept for escalating disputes straight to the Tribunal. With the overall objective of ensuring the democratic participation of trade unions, a provision for a “Negotiating Union” and a “Negotiating Council” has been made for undertaking negotiations on any dispute.

It is worth mentioning that a provision for a re-skilling fund has also been made in the statute for the first time. Its target would be to re-skill those workers who have been removed from their jobs, so that they are well-qualified with appropriate skill sets to match the kind of jobs in the market easily. For this, workers would also be given 15 days’ salary within a period of 45 days.

These changes and reforms in labour laws have been conceptualised keeping in mind the fast-changing scenario over the years. It is imagined to make them futuristic so that India marches on a faster growth trajectory and eventually becomes the world’s favourite investment destination. With these labour codes, peaceful and harmonious industrial relations will be promoted across the country, which in turn will propel the engine of growth of industry, employment and income, and ensure balanced regional development. Besides, it will also put more disposable income in the hands of our workers. These path-breaking labour reforms in the form of the four labour codes will help our country attract foreign direct investment and also induce domestic investment from entrepreneurs. Most importantly, these futuristic labour codes will aid in ending the vicious cycle of Inspector Raj in the country and bring much-needed transparency in the system. Indeed, a win-win situation.

The writers are Indian Economic Service officers. The views expressed are personal.

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ART KEPT US CONNECTED DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC, SAYS SINGER SHILPA RAO

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In an exclusive interview with NewsX as part of its special series NewsX India A-list, Singer Shilpa Rao talked about her recent collaboration with The Yellow Diary for the song ‘Roz Roz’.

Known for exploring new trends and genres, Shilpa Rao is back to win hearts with her latest song Roz Roz, which is in collaboration with The Yellow Diary. Joining NewsX for a candid chat as part of its special NewsX India A-list, Shilpa spoke about singing Roz Roz, especially amid the pandemic and reminisced about her journey so far.

Reflecting upon the year gone by, she expressed that the last year was weird and it was particularly difficult to record songs but they made it happen through emails, voice notes, and recording from home. Expressing gratitude to all the love and appreciation coming her way for Roz Roz, Shilpa said, “It feels really special when people point out a particular line and say that they can relate to it.”

Exclaiming how “creators can’t sit still”, she said that as creators their mind keeps on working all the time. Previously it was hard to manage the time as they had to travel a lot but now when they are at home all the energy goes in one direction and it’s easy to finish the work. Shilpa added that artists are always up for something creative. Talking about Roz Roz, she said, “Not only I but so many artists came up with brilliant music in 2020. Professionally, it was weird to see a drastic change in 2020 but it was a good year. We all were scattered during the pandemic but art kept everyone connected.”

The year 2020 was also special for Shilpa on a personal level as she tied the knot with Ritesh Krishnan. On opting for an intimate wedding ceremony, Shilpa said, “Our parents are elderly so we chose to have a simple registered marriage at home. We kept it plain yet it was a perfect wedding. We officially registered for the wedding and all my friends and family members from all over the world joined in to see the ceremony on a video call.”

According to her, Tose Naina Lage has been the game changer song of her life. “It comes from a different world altogether. It was the most special song for me and will always be. Mithoon and I worked hard on this song and to know what we were in 2006 one should listen to the song,” said Shilpa.

Addressing the coronavirus pandemic, she said, “Post pandemic, we don’t need complex people, we need empathic people.” Shilpa shared a piece of advice with aspiring musicians, “We all are running a race and want to do much more to get success but the world right now needs pacifiers.” Concluding on a musical note, Shilpa sang Tose Naina Lage from Anwar.

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