The Congress on Monday criticised the Ministry of Labour and Employment’s proposal to increase the daily working hours limit from 8 to 12, saying that the Narendra Modi government is “promoting new forms of economic slavery”. The move will benefit “a few crony capitalist friends” of the Bhartiya Janata Party, it added.

In a draft notification on November 19, the labour ministry had proposed maximum 12 hours working in a day, PTI reported. This is inclusive of intervals under the draft rules on Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions passed earlier this year by the Parliament. It also said that no worker should be required or allowed to work in an establishment for more than 48 hours in any week. The notification drew flak from many corners because the Occupational Safety, Health And Working Conditions Code, 2020, passed by Parliament provides for maximum eight working hours in a day.

“Once again, the BJP Government has sanctioned legalised assault on the livelihood, well-being, health and work-life balance of India’s workforce,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said in a statement. “We demand that these rules be reviewed forthwith in consultation with all stakeholders including All India Trade Union Congress and other bodies. Until then, let these rules be kept in suspended animation.”

Surjewala said the BJP has now given “an open license” to suppress the working and manufacturing class, which will lead to approximately over 40,65,000 job losses. “Rule 28 of the new rules now provide for 12 hour shifts for factory workers, leaving them little time for long hours of commuting, rest, sending for the household, relaxation and family time i.e. work-life balance,” the statement read. “This would have a severe impact on the physical and mental wellbeing for India’s labour and working class.”

The new proposal can only be justified by the saffron party’s political ideology, the Congress said. “It supports and foresees India’s hardworking class as slaves of the rich,” Surjewala said.

Calling the BJP “anti-poor”, the Congress spokesperson said the party is also guilty of criminal negligence due to the deaths of thousands of migrants during the coronavirus-induced lockdown in March.

“In short, the BJP Government, through the new rules have added insult to the injury to the builders of modern India i.e. our migrant workers, by rejecting the provision for their existence records in the new rules,” the statement said. “This will conveniently allow the BJP to use and abuse the vulnerable sections without affording them any rights.”

A senior home ministry official had justified the decision to increase working hours, saying it will allow people to earn more through overtime allowance, according to PTI. “We have made necessary provision in the draft rules so that all workers working beyond eight hours get overtime,” the official added. “This has been done keeping in mind the extreme climatic conditions across the country where work scheduled is spread through the day.”