Labour Day or May Day is celebrated all over the world and is a celebration of the working classes that is promoted by the international labour movements. In India if workers have gotten any right, it is because of Dr Ambedkar hence not to remember Dr Ambedkar on Labour Day will be an injustice to Dr Ambedkar’s legacy.
Dr Ambedkar’s contribution towards society is immense but almost everyone ignores the role of Dr Ambedkar as a labour leader. The Department of Labour was established in the year November 1937 and Dr Ambedkar took over the Labour portfolio in July 1942. The policy formulation and planning for the development of irrigation and electric power was the major concern. It was the Labour Department, under the guidance of Dr Ambedkar, that decided to establish “Central Technical Power Board” (CTPB) for power system development, hydel power station sites, hydro-electric surveys, analysing problems of electricity generation and thermal power station investigation.
If there is any one person who secured the rights of labourers in India, it was none other than Babasaheb Ambedkar. Without Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, today the future of India workers would have been in pitch darkness. He is the only leader in India who was multi-dimensional and a great visionary. The so-called upper castes never gave credit to Dr Ambedkar’s contribution in building a great nation, which is today one of the biggest developing economies of the world. All this has become possible only because of Dr Ambedkar’s robust economic policies, which have saved India even in the times of great economic depressions. Be it the founding guidelines of the RBI or the principles governing any other aspect of the economy, Dr Ambedkar has given the best India could ever have had.
It was Dr Ambedkar who brought in the 8-hour working day to India, bringing it down from 14 hours. He brought it in the 7th session of Indian Labour Conference in New Delhi, November 27, 1942.
All workers should be grateful to Dr Ambedkar, especially women employees, as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar framed many laws for women workers in India such as ‘Mines Maternity Benefit Act’, ‘Women Labour Welfare Fund’, ‘Women and Child Labour Protection Act’, ‘Maternity Benefit for Women Labour’, and ‘Restoration of Ban on Employment of Women on Underground Work in Coal Mines’.
If you are happy with your company providing you health insurance, the credit should go to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Employees State Insurance (ESI) helps the workers with medical care, medical leave, physical disability caused due to injuries sustained during work, workmen’s compensation and for the provision of various facilities. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar enacted and brought it for the benefit of workers. India was the first nation among East Asian countries to bring Insurance Act for the well-being of employees.
Every increase in ‘Dearness Allowance’ (DA) which brings a smile on your face, should also be an occasion for you to thank Dr Ambedkar. If you have ‘Leave Benefit’, bow your head to Dr Ambedkar. If ‘Revision of Scale of Pay’ cheers you, remember Dr Ambedkar.
Dr Ambedkar’s contribution towards ‘Coal and Mica Mines Provident Fund’ was vital also. At the time, Coal industry played an important role in our country’s economy. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar enacted the Coal Mines Safety (Stowing) Amendment Bill for the benefit of the workers on January 31st, 1944. On 8th April 1946, he brought the ‘Mica Mines Labour Welfare Fund’ that helped the workers with housing, water supply, education, entertainment, co-operative arrangements. Further, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar set up an advisory committee to advise on important matters arising out of the ‘Labour Welfare Fund’ under the guidance of B P Agarkar. Later he promulgated it on January, 1944.
As Labour Member of the Viceroy’s Council, Dr. Ambedkar initiated programs to increase the productivity of workers, by providing them with education and important skills required for performing jobs better, health care and maternity leave provisions for women workers. Dr Ambedkar set up the ‘Tripartite Labour Council’ in 1942 to safeguard social security measures for the workers, giving equal opportunity to the workers and employers to participate in the formulation of labour policy and strengthening the labour movement by introducing compulsory recognition of trade unions and worker organizations. Even today, the Tribunal System – workers, employers & government representatives – suggested by Dr Ambedkar to solve the industrial disputes and unrest is a widely practised method for solving industrial problems in India. (Though, it is a shame that the present governments aren’t implementing this effectively).
Dr Ambedkar emphasised on the significance and need for the ‘Grid System’, in the power sector which is still working successfully even today. If today power engineers are going abroad for training, the credit goes to Dr Ambedkar again, who as a leader of Labour Department formulated policy to train the best engineers overseas. It is a matter of shame that nobody credits Dr Ambedkar for the role he played in India’s water policy and electric power planning also.
Labour was placed in the ‘Concurrent List’, ‘Chief and Labour Commissioners’ were appointed, the ‘Labour Investigation Committee’ was formed – credit for all these goes to Dr Ambedkar. ‘Minimum Wages Act’ was Dr Ambedkar’s contribution so was the ‘Maternity Benefit Bill’, empowering women workers. If there are ‘Employment Exchanges’ in India today, it is because of Dr Ambedkar’s vision (again it is a shame that present governments are not running them properly). If workers can go on strike for their rights, it is because of Babasaheb Ambedkar – he had clearly recognised the ‘Right to Strike’ by the workers. On 8th November, 1943 Dr Ambedkar brought the ‘Indian Trade Unions (Amendment) Bill’ for compulsory recognition of trade unions. Dr Ambedkar maintained that depressed classes should play an important role in the economic development of the country.
It can be safely said that if workers in India do have rights, it is because of Dr Ambedkar’s hard work and his fight for all of us. We are indebted to Dr Ambedkar for all the rights and facilities we have so to celebrate Labour Day in India without recognising the contribution of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar is not only shameful but also hypocrisy. This Labour Day let us remember the best labour minister India ever had and salute him. Salute to Babasaheb Ambedkar.
‘Ambedkar’s Role in Economic Planning Water and Power Policy’ by Sukhadeo Thorat.
— This article was first published on Round Table India.