Labour and Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. Queries.

Stepping out briefly of nomenclature excesses that the DMIC funding mechanisms deliberated upon, I briefly bring to attention the labour issues that deserve a discussion, albeit in much lower profile. Considering the gigantic proportions of the project and similar corridors on their way, the very definition, constitution and framework of labour is challenging, be it under the rubric of organized, unorganized, skilled, unskilled, semi-skilled, migrant and/or contractual and within manufacturing, service or knowledge economy. Laws and Acts are applicable to labour more due to a lack of this particular enframing of labour, since the former are twisted to be more accommodating for the law-makers and law-interpreters. So the preliminary question is, where to fit in multifarious conceptions of labour in equally multifarious lines of projects? How to envisage Laws and Acts in existence with the ones-to-come?

On a more downside and at first seemingly unrelated note, assuming (and I mean assuming) that such corridors (I prefer calling them verandahs, since it could help me to jump off the corridor!!!) become the engines of growth, where the labour somehow transforms from brute labour into consumers themselves, transforming the economy from investment/manufacturing-led to services/knowldege-led, from export orientation to import consumer-based orientation, then what can rule out the point of labour scarcity getting realized. I see three consequences of such a transformation:

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1) Attaining a “Lewis Turning Point”, an inevitable developmental phase when wages surge sharply, squeezing industrial profits along the way and consequently resulting in a dip of investment.

2) A workerist struggle demands higher wages and broader social reforms implying a further shortage of labour output with a correspondingly higher cost of maintaining labour in production and meeting its social costs leading to further shrinking of profits.

3) Capital innovates and reterritorializes itself for a better profitable ground, thus deepening the crisis of accumulation in the real economy.

Such a position is serious because bringing in foreign technology and (cheap labour + capital) eventually risks running short on cheap labour, and the focus shifts to adding more capital without paying any heed to simultaneous diminishing returns. Growth engine starts losing its steam. The reason for this part of the post is to locate the importance of labour (cheap labour is a very derogatorily used here and apologies for the same. But, unless used this way, gravity would refuse to sink in) in forcing capital to take flight on the one hand, and become more socially-democratically aware on the other.

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