Friday May 25, 2018
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Modi meets labor leaders, differences persist

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New Delhi: Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi met labor leaders on Sunday on the eve of the 46th Indian Labour Conference, differences persisted between central trade unions and the government over the contentious issues of contract labor and minimum wages.

The meeting over tea on Sunday followed extensive consultations that these leaders had with an inter-ministerial team headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley earlier in the day.

Union ministers Jaitley, Bandaru Dattatreya, Dharmendra Pradhan, Piyush Goyal and Jitendra Singh were present at the meeting, an official statement said.

The trade unions represented at the meeting included the All India United Trade Union Centre, All India Central Council of Trade Unions, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, the Centre for Indian Trade Unions, Hind Mazdoor Sabha, Hind Mazdoor Sangh, Indian National Trade Union Congress, Labour Progressive Federation, National Front of Indian Trade Unions, Self-Employed Women’s Association, Trade Union Coordination Centre, and United Trade Union Congress.

“The government is trying to change the labour laws without speaking to trade unions. We have made it very clear that this is not acceptable to us,” Gurudas Dasgupta, general secretary of the AITUC and a former Lok Sabha member, said after the meeting.

“We have said that we totally opposed the government’s move on changing labour laws of the country. This will hurt the interest of the workers,” he said.

“Since there is no assurance, we will stick to our stand of a strike on September 2,” Dasgupta added.

“The good thing is that the finance minister is is heading the committee. We felt good when he briefed us in front of the prime minister,” said Brijesh Upadhyay, general secretary of the BMS, which is affiliated to the Bharatiya Janata Party.

“The government has shown some positive approach on the issues raised by us. We have hope. Something will be done,” he added.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Labour Minister Dattatreya said: “There is consensus on the issues of recognition of trade unions, Bonus Act and matters related to social security of workers. There is gap on issues related to contract labour and minimum wages. Discussions are in progress on these issues.”

However, D.L. Sachdev, secretary of the AITUC, contradicted the minister. “There is no consensus or agreement on any issue. We have not come here with any expectation of having consensus on any issue with this government,” he said.

“The issue of central trade unions’ call for a day-long strike on September 2 was not discussed so we have not responded on that. Our resolve to go ahead with the strike on September 2 has not changed,” he added.

The unions have been raising issues related to labour law amendments and a 10-point charter of demands that includes a minimum wage of Rs.15,000 per month across the country, up from Rs.5,000 to Rs.9,000 in different states and similar wages and services conditions for contract labour as for regular employees.

At a meeting earlier, trade unions unanimously decided to oppose certain proposed amendments to labour law like easing of retrenchment and unit closure norms.

“We have decided not to change our stand on certain labour law amendments which are not in the interest of workers,” Upadhyay said, adding at this meeting, it was also decided that unions would listen to government’s view on different issues during the two meetings.

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Oli Assures Modi, Nepal’s Territory Won’t Be Used Against India’s Interests

After assuming office in February, Oli made his first foreign visit to India in April.

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Gokhale said that Modi's two-day visit to Nepal was aimed to strengthen bilateral relations
KP Sharma Oli, PM of Nepal, wikimedia commons

Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli has told his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi that Nepal’s territory will not be used against New Delhi’s interests, Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said here on Saturday.

“Oli reiterated that they will be sensitive to our concerns and their territory will not be allowed to be used by anybody against India. Prime Minister Modi reciprocated the sentiments,” Gokhale told the media.

Gokhale called Oli’s view “very significant”.

There was a chill in India-Nepal ties during Oli’s earlier stint as Prime Minister between October 2015 and August 2016 when a border blockade blamed on New Delhi crippled Nepal’s economy.

There were also perceptions that Oli was leaning towards China than India.

Gokhale said that Modi’s two-day visit to Nepal was aimed to strengthen bilateral relations “whether it be cross-border electricity or cross-border connectivity”.

“We are looking into cross-border electricity and cross-border connectivity not only with Nepal but other neighbouring countries as well,” he said.

After assuming office in February, Oli made his first foreign visit to India in April.

Stating that India welcomed the restoration of democracy in Nepal, Gokhale said that both the government and the opposition in the Himalayan nation were parties to it.

He said both sides agreed to be committed towards the stated projects. “We will address this within a set timeline.”

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi stressed on the importance of service to others in his last Mann Ki Baat edition for 2017.
Modi is on Nepal visit for two days, wikimedia commons

According to Gokhale, Oli confirmed to Modi that Nepal will host the the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) summit this year.

Bimstec comprises seven countries lying in the littoral and adjacent areas of the Bay of Bengal — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Gokhale also said that Modi’s visits to cultural sites in Nepal “suggested that there should be strong people-to-people ties”.

Apart from offering prayers at temples in Nepal, the Indian leader inaugurated the Janakpur-Ayodhya bus service, a 900 MW hydropower project and announced Rs 100-crore aid to develop Janakpur city.

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He also held extensive discussions with Oli, President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and other government officials to better bilateral ties after which he said: “All misunderstandings with Nepal are over.”

Modi also met leaders of opposition parties, starting with former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and other members of the Nepali Congress.

He exchanged views on strengthening bilateral ties with former Prime Minister and Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda”. (IANS)

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