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The government of Tamil Nadu on Thursday issued an order permitting every shop and establishment – having 10 or more employees – in the state to be open 24 hrs under certain conditions for an initial period of three years.
This move has already caused a rift in the trading community of the state. A part of the trading community has wholeheartedly welcomed this move, while the other section believes that the act will only help multinational corporations and big-scale mall owners.
In a state with rapidly growing urban population, the new act is being perceived as a good move for the booming economy. However, in many sectors such as automotive industry, service sector, IT industry, etc., the workers are undergoing a severe crisis and have been protesting. Whether the state can provide the environment to sustain such an economy is also a question being raised by many.
T Ananthan, the president of Chennai Metropolitan Tea Shop Owners’ Association, who have been demanding this move, expressed their gratitude while speaking to NewsClick. “This will put an end to the police brutality on the small-time vendors. They usually don’t allow us to open our shops after a certain time, and harass us,” he said.
“This order will not help the small-time traders in the state,” claimed T Vellaiyan, leader of Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peravai. “Multinational corporations like Walmart and all can afford the necessary security they need to stay open at night. Here, the police are not being able to give security for us in the daytime itself. How are they going to provide us security at night then?” he questioned.
But Vikramaraja, state president of Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangain Peramaippu, brushed away such concerns and wholeheartedly welcomed the move. “The authorities used to give to us different time slots in different districts. This caused trouble for us, mainly the small-scale traders. We could not employ more people because of this time constraint. But the new order will help us expand our business and will help the government also. But the police should be more cooperative with us for this move to win,” said him.
A Sounderrajan, Tamil Nadu state president, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), stressed on the need to protect workers’ rights and demanded that the section in notification that highlight workers’ rights be implemented, according to a New Indian Express report.
The order instructs that no employee shall be allowed to work for more than 8 hours a day and 48 hours a week. Even while working overtime, the employee should not be engaged for more than 10.5 hours a day and 57 hours in a week. Every employee will be given one day off every week and wages including overtime wages should be credited to the employee’s bank account. Any violation will lead to penal action. The order also instructed not to allow women employees to work past 8 pm under normal circumstances. Transport facilities, rest rooms, lockers, wash rooms and other basic amenities are also to be provided for female workers.
This order is a follow-up of the central government's decision to establish uniform working conditions for the entire country. Earlier, the Centre had sent a model Shops and Establishment (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Bill 2016 to every state, and had asked them to take up the act or to come up with an act based on this model. The state has amended the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947, according to this model.