Working class lifestyles changing, say experts

Agra, May 1 (IANS) Speakers at a group discussion on International Labour Day Wednesday said that while the earning capacity and lifestyle of the lowest rung of labourers has improved, the middle class was stressed due to shrinking opportunities and the Americanisation of the economy.

Vinay Paliwal, a Left leader of the 1970s, said: “Due to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, the minimum wages act and other provisions, there has been discernible changes in the consumption patterns and earning capacity of labourers in the unorganised sectors.”

He added that the bargaining capacity of skilled workers has gone up and even a helper was now earning Rs.250 to Rs.300 a day.

“The trade union movement helped sharpen awareness and empowered workers. Even in rural areas, we noticed a huge shortage of agricultural labourers,” he said.

Activist Madhukar Chaturvedi said: “The urban educated is under tremendous pressure with no guarantee of job security. The American hire-and-fire culture has created tension. Unlike the US, we do not have a healthy social security regime.”

“Trade unions have been reduced to mere litigation committees busy with labour courts and tribunals,” said Anand Rai, a social activist. He said that in eastern Uttar Pradesh, the plight of agricultural workers was pathetic.

“Even in urban clusters, those at the bottom rung are under tremendous socio-economic pressures and barely manage to survive. Government statistics paint a rosy picture, but in reality, the life of labourers in the unorganised sectors is far from humane. Exploitation in newer forms is a reality of modern India,” Rai said.

The discussion was organised at a hotel by Citizens Action Group, a voluntary organisation.

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