RTIwala Explains: Ministers, sportsmen, actors and so on. The blood and sweat of the common man seldom make headlines. On this International Labour Day, 2018, let us shift our focus to the unsung heroes of the society, the working class. But were they always a celebrated class? How did the workforce find a voice for itself? The answers must be known to one and all in order to pay the due respect to the only class in the society that goes unattended in the public eye.
Haymarket Affair: The revolution behind Labour Day celebration
Back in 1886 on this day, the labour unions in the U.S.A. called for a worldwide strike. Their demand was an 8-hour per day of working hours. Call it insane if you want to, but a labour’s working hours are primarily decided by his employer. That means, the working class was subjected to immense suppression and in turn, exploitation by all possible standards. Nothing called a Standard of Living Index or Happiness Index existed back in the day, after all. The strike was followed by a bomb blast in Chicago’s Haymarket Square on the 4th of May and massive violence inflicted on the labour class. The unfortunate incident was later termed as the ‘Haymarket Affair’ in history. May 1 was marked as International Labour Day (May Day) in 1923 as a mark of respect towards the Haymarket Affair.
During her conversation with People Matters, Dr. Gayathri Vasudevan, Co-Founder & CEO, LabourNet Services, said “labour Day, historically was earmarked as the day when a number of decisions were made in favour of workers, provisions for 8-hour work with decent wages, social security and time off from work in the form of leave. However, these benefits are still not available to workers in the informal sector even today.”
Labour Day in India: The History beckons
In India, Labour Day was first celebrated in Madras, now Chennai on May 1, 1923. Malayapuram Singaravelu Chettiar, one of the founders of the Communist Party of India (CPI), came up with the Labour Kisaan Party of Hindustan on the day. The red flag of the party soon came to be known as a commemoration of the working class of India and was hoisted on this day for the first time. Also, the workforce across the country have been commemorated by the Labor Statue on the Marina Beach in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
As many as 80 countries across the globe follow May 1 as a national holiday earmarked as the May Day or Labour Day. However, other countries including the United States of America celebrate the same in the 1st Monday of September every year.
State of Labour Ministry under the current Government
Santosh Gangwar, Minister of State (Independent charge) for Labour & Employment had resumed office in September 2017. His appointment has only seen better prospects for the working class and the youth of India. Owing to the ‘Make In India’ initiative under the present Govt., the union budget has been witnessing an upward trend on employment generation, skill development and most importantly, a big push for generating entrepreneurship across the country.
Most of the Indian states can now be seen spending a considerable amount of their funds on promoting events, campaigns and other initiatives pertaining to the promotion of entrepreneurship, popularly known as the ‘startup culture.’ According to the Labour and Employment Ministry report, the current budget for the financial year 2017-18 saw big INR 7188.38 crores allocated to the upliftment of the labour and employed class.
Now that we realize the difficult phases that the evolution of the workforce has been through, let us pledge to stay committed to their toil and act towards the ‘Employment for All’ initiative in tandem with the Govt. of India.