Law and Social Justice

Gouthami V P
Note by Gouthami V P, updated more than 1 year ago
Gouthami V P
Created by Gouthami V P over 6 years ago


Chapter 10: Law and social justice

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CIVICS: Law and Social Justice Private companies and businesses usually want to make more profit. In this drive for money, they might deny workers their basic rights and not give their wages. According to the law, it is illegal to deny workers their wages. Also, to ensure that workers are not underpaid, there is a law passed on minimum wages. According to this law, workers cannot be paid less than the minimum wage by their employer. The minimum wages are raised upwards every few years. Along with the law on minimum wages for the workers, there are similar laws for the producers and the consumers. This ensures that the relations between the workers, producers and consumers is governed in a way that is not exploitative. The government must not only make these laws, but the laws have to be implemented as well. This can be done by regular inspection and punishment for those who do not abide by the law. Enforcement of laws is especially important when dealing with issues between the weak and the strong. When workers are weak and powerless, the fear of losing future salary forces them to accept low wages. The employers use this to their advantage and thus misuse their power and pay workers less than their fair wage. In these cases, it is crucial for the laws to be enforced. By making and enforcing these laws, the government establishes social justice. Many of these laws are part of the Fundamental Rights issued in the Indian Constitution. For example, the Right against Exploitation states that nobody can be forced to work with low wages or under bondage. In the same way, the Constitution states that "No child below the age of 14 years can be employed to work in any factories or mines or be engaged in any other hazardous employment. Child Labor Prevention Act: In October 2006, the government passed the Child Labor Prevention Act which stated that no child below the age of 14 could be employed to work as domestic servants or workers at dhabas, restaurants, tea shops, etc. This made employing these kids a punishable offence. Violation of this ban must be penalized with a punishment ranging from three months to two years in prison and/or a fine of Rs.10,000 to Rs.20,000. The central government asked the state governments to develop plans to rescue and rehabilitate the children undergoing child labor while working as domestic servants. As of now, only three states, which are Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra have published these plans. Bhopal Gas Tragedy: Union Carbide (UC) an American company had a factory in the city of Bhopal and it produces pesticides. On 2nd December, 1984 methyl-isocyanite (MIC) which is a highly poisonous gas, started leaking. In about three days, 8000 people were dead and hundreds of thousands were maimed. Many of the people who were exposed to the gas cam from low castes and the poor. Even those who survived developed several disorders like eye and respiratory disorders. It also caused children to develop certain abnormalities. This disaster cannot be treated as an accident as UC ignored the safety precautions in order to cut costs, although there had already been a death and several casualties prior to the Bhopal tragedy. UC did not accept the responsibility and the case was handled at the court. It was settled with 470 billion dollars in compensation. Although UC stopped its operations, it left behind toxic chemicals which have seeped into the soil and now contaminate the water of the city. Dhow Chemicals, the company who currently owns the plant, refuses to take responsibility for this situation. For years now, the citizens demand and fight for justice. They demand proper medical facilities and jobs to be provided for those poisoned by the UC. They also demand for the execution of Anderson,the UC chairman. Worker's Worth: One reason that foreign companies come to India is because of the cheap labor available. The costs for hiring workers are much higher in USA as compared to poorer countries like India. Additional expenses, such as housing facilities, for workers are cheaper. Hence, the companies can spend less and invest more. Cost cutting can also be done in many other dangerous ways. Lower working conditions and lower safety measures are ways to reduce the cost. In the UC plant, every safety device was malfunctioning or in short supply. Between 1980 and 1984, the plant cut the crew for the MIC plant from 12 workers to 6 workers. The safety training for workers was brought down from 6 months to 15 days. In India, one worker can easily replace another. This is because of the large number of unemployed people in India. Many people are willing to work in places with low saftey conditions in order to earn a salary. The employers take advantage of this and ignore safety in workplaces. Enforcement of safety laws: As the law-maker and enforcer, the government has to ensure that all laws are enforced. It is also the duty of the government to ensure that the Right to Life mentioned in Article 21 is not violated. The government officials refused to believe that the plant was hazardous and allowed it to be constructed in such a populated area in Bhopal, although many municipal officials in 1978 objected that it was a safety violation. But according to the government, it was even unthinkable of to ask the UC to provide better safety measures and provide a cleaner environment. The inspectors of the government kept approving the procedures in the plant although there was repeatedly news of leaks. New laws to protect the environment: In 1984, there were very few law protecting the environment. The environment was like a free 'entity' and any industry could pollute the air or water and not be punished for violation any laws. The Bhopal tragedy brought this issue to the spotlight. Many people who were not associated with the industry in any way were greatly affected due to the poisonous gas leaked by the industry. In the years following the Bhopal tragedy, laws were passed for the protection of the environment. Hence, the polluter was to be held accountable for any harm caused to environment as the environment was something that would be shared with all of the future generations and it could not be damaged merely for the purpose of industrial development. The Right to Life is a Fundamental Right under Article 21 in the Constitution which stated the right to enjoyment of pollution- free water and air and also for the full enjoyment of life. THE END

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