Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee correspondent
In May 2023, the Maharashtra government revised its IT and ITeS policy. The revised policy has made two major changes.
- The IT sector has been declared a continuous industry.
- It will be considered an essential service so the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) will be applicable to IT and ITeS workers.
As continuous industry, IT and ITeS establishments will be allowed to work 24×7 every day of the year. Shift working will become the norm. Work will continue over the week ends and even on national holidays.
The question that needs to be asked is by what stretch imagination can IT and ITeS be considered a continuous industry. How can IT establishments be called an industry if they are not even covered by the Factories Act? Presently, IT establishments are covered by the Shop and Establishment Act under which all offices are covered.
The intention of declaring it a continuous industry is to extract more work out of existing IT workers and make Maharashtra more attractive to big Indian and foreign capitalists for setting up their IT centres.
ESMA is a draconian law that makes it illegal for workers to strike when the law is in effect. ESMA is used not only to scare employees but also to scare their supporters as supporters of protesting workers are also penalized under this Act. The essential service status will diminish the ability of lakhs of IT workers to organize and fight for their rights and weaken the working class as a whole.
Thus, there is a two-pronged attack on IT workers. First, IT companies have been given the freedom to increase the exploitation of workers by declaring it a continuous industry. Second, the rights of workers to protest against their increased exploitation have been taken away by calling it an essential service.
Along with the above two big concessions, IT companies have been offered a number of incentives by the revised IT and ITeS policy.
- Stamp duty exemption of 75%–100% on lease, mortgage, deposits, and other transactions
- Electricity duty waiver for 10–15 years
- Subsidy on electricity tariff: Electricity will be supplied to IT companies at industrial instead of commercial rates. Thus, these companies will save Rs. 5 per unit under the revised policy. Further, data center parks will be allowed to establish their own power infrastructure. These provisions are bound to create losses for the state-owned power companies.
- Subsidized property tax at residential instead of commercial rates.
- Permission to establish IT units in residential, no-development, and green zones.
The revised IT and ITeS policy is a stark example of how the economy is oriented towards fulfilling the capitalist greed for profit. The policy allows the super -exploitation of workers and takes away their right to fight against this exploitation.
What is important to remember is that ESMA has been applied on railway, electricity, bank, defence, hospital and other public sector workers by various political parties in power. In Uttar Pradesh, different governments have imposed ESMA on workers time and again. Thus, the fight of workers is not against any single party. ESMA is a tool of our rulers to suppress the just struggles of workers.
Workers across the world have sacrificed their sweat and blood for various rights, such as the right to form a union and the right to protest oppression. An attack on one section of the working class is an attack on the entire working class. Workers of Maharashtra should unitedly oppose this attack on IT and ITeS workers!