There is a Great Deal of Variation in the Conditions of Life and Labor of the Indian ‘Working Class’

One of the consequences of economic liberalization in India, as elsewhere in the world, has been to encourage the informalization of labor, so that the share of organized, formal employment in the labor force as a whole has been declining (Harriss, 2010).

India’s labor laws, many conceived during British rule, have stifled manufacturing and hindered job creation.  Companies with more than 100 employees must obtain government permission to fire workers, a provision that discourages companies from expanding and hiring.  In 2012, about 84 percent of manufacturers in India employed fewer than 49 people, keeping a large majority of the work force in the informal sector with little job security and few benefits (16, October 2014, New York Times).

Development and Job Creation

The national program, ‘Make in India,’ is designed to transform India into a global manufacturing hub.  The reforms include plans to streamline labor laws and make scrutiny of factories transparent to curb harassment by government inspectors, cut red tape, develop infrastructure and make it easier for companies to do business.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected on a platform of development and job creation.  “For the success of ‘Make in India,’ ease of doing business should be given priority,” said Modi at the event launch in September 2014.  Labor regulations are among the biggest challenges to setting up manufacturing in India, which fell to 134th place this year in a World Bank index of countries for doing business.

Aligning India’s Labor Strategy 

There is a great deal of variation in the conditions of life and labor of the Indian ‘working class,’ and it cannot be expected that a common political class consciousness can be at all easily developed (Harriss, 2010).

At the India Economic Summit (2011), delegates sought to align India’s labor strategy with the evolving global context as well as the development priorities for India and South Asia.  The success of ‘Make in India’ also depends on realizing youth potential, with added improvements in the education system, infrastructural investments, and an agenda for equitable distribution of opportunities.

India Had the Third-Largest Number of People Living with HIV in 2013

World AIDS day 2014According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDs, or UNAIDS, India had the third-largest number of people living with HIV in the world at the end of 2013, and it accounts for more than half of all AIDS-related deaths in the Asia-Pacific region.  In 2012, 140,000 people died in India because of AIDS.

The Economics of HIV/AIDS

One argument is that the scale of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is so great and so threatening to overall social and economic development that it constitutes an emergency that requires a direct response (Canning, 2006).  The Indian government has been providing free anti-retroviral drugs for HIV treatment since 2004, but only 50 percent of those eligible for the treatment were getting it in 2012, according to a report from the World Health Organization.  This strategy has been effective in delaying the decline in the immune system, the onset of opportunistic infections, and death (Canning, 2006).    However, the reach means stronger prevention measures are required, now.

Ethical Arguments 

world aids day india

National human rights institutions have become increasingly engaged in addressing HIV-related human rights issues (UNAIDS, 2013).  Stigma and punitive environments continue to have a negative impact on the rights of key populations at higher risk and other vulnerable groups. If the goal is to maximize the health benefits produced, developing-country governments and international institutions should focus their health spending first on the prevention of HIV transmission, before moving on to treatment (Canning, 2006).  However, emphasizing treatment before prevention in financially-constrained environments comes at the highest cost, deaths.