Law and Social Justice Class 8 Civics Chapter 10 Notes
CBSE Class 8 Civics Chapter 10 Law and Social Justice– Detailed explanation of the chapter ‘Law and Social Justice’ along with question answers. Given here is the complete explanation of the lesson, along with all the exercises, Question and Answers given at the back of the lesson.
Class 8 Civics Chapter 10 – Law and Social Justice
By Gunjan Garima
Consider a situation of the common market where the situation of law is crucial. It is the issue regarding the wages of workers. Contractors, private persons, businessmen always looking forward to make maximum profits as possible. Sometimes, to get such profits, they might deny the right of workers working under them and sometimes, not even grant them wages. Under the law, it is an illegal process to deny wages of workers.
The government has made a law regarding minimum wages in order to ensure that an employer doesn’t keep his workers underpaid. An employer has to pay an amount equivalent to or more than the minimum wage, but not less than that. The government revises the amount of minimum wages every few years.
Apart from the minimum wages which was introduced by the Government of India (GoI) to protect the rights of workers, there are also laws to protect the rights of consumers of producers. These laws are administered in such a manner that the professional relationship between workers, producers and consumers doesn’t remain exploitative.
However, only making such laws is not sufficient. The government has to ensure that these laws are implemented properly at every level. In other words, the government needs to ensure that these laws are enforced well. In order to protect the weak sections of workers from overpowering employers, the enforcement of such laws become a necessity. For example the officials or representatives of government inspect the work sites on a regular basis in order to ensure that workers are employed in satisfactory conditions.
In case, if a section of workers are powerless or poor, they fear about losing their future earnings or face reprisals from their employers in order to accept low wages. The employers have an idea of this fact and they pay their poor workers less wages which is far less than the minimum wages as set by GOI. Therefore, it is important that the government enforces laws.
In order to ensure social justice, the GoI will be able to control the activities of individuals as well as private companies by upholding, making and enforcing these laws. The Constitution of India guarantees that many such laws are based on the Fundamental Rights. For example, according to Right to Exploitation, a person can’t be forced to work under bondage or work for low wages. Apart from that, the Constitution states that no child under the age of 14 can be employed in mines or factories or any similar hazardous employment.
According to data from the Census held in 2011, around 4 million kids between the ages of 5 and 14 have been working in different occupations including the hazardous ones. The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 was amended by the Parliament in 2016. With this law, the employment of children below 14 years was banned in all occupations. Similarly, the adolescents belonging to the age group 14 to 18 can’t be employed in hazardous processes and occupations. With this law, the employment of children and adolescents has become a cognizable offence. If a person violates this ban, he or she could face a jail term ranging from six months to two years, or fine between Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 or even both. The state governments have also been asked by the Central government to come up with plans in order to rescue and rehabilitate the children found working under such conditions.
Bhopal Gas Tragedy
One of the worst industrial tragedies in the world took place in Bhopal 35 years back. An American Company named Union Carbide (UC) had set up a factory in the outskirts of Bhopal. It was responsible for manufacturing Pesticides. On 2 December 1984, a highly poisonous gas called methyl-isocyanite (MIC) started leaking from this plant.
After this, the surrounding areas were filled with white clouds and people started running away from their homes. In the next three days, over 8000 people died and thousands suffered from grievous injuries and side effects. A majority of these people who were exposed to these gases came from the poor families and the working class. Its side effects can be seen among people even today where over 50,000 people are still unfit to work.
The survivors of this tragedy have suffered from severe eye issues, respiratory diseases and other similar disorders. The children born to such parents also suffered from severe diseases such as peculiar abnormalities.
According to several reports, this tragedy was not an accident. In order to cut down the costs, the essential safety measures were ignored by UC deliberately. Much before this disaster, a gas-leaking incident took place in the plant where a worker was killed and several others were injured.
Even though there were an overwhelming responses that proved UC was responsible for this disaster, the company refused to accept this responsibility. A legal battle ensured where the victims were represented by the GOI in a civil case against the UC. In 1985, compensation amounting to $3 billion was demanded in this case. However, in 1989 the government accepted amount as low as $470 million.
Further, the survivors appealed against the compensation amount in the Supreme Court. However, in its judgement the SC stated that this settlement amount would stand. Further, UC stopped its operations and it left behind several tons of toxic chemicals. The harmful chemicals have seeped into the groundwater due to which water from surrounding areas have become unfit for drinking. UC is now owned by Dow Chemicals which has refused to take up cleaning work responsibility.
Now that 35 years have passed since this gruesome accident, the survivors are still fighting for justice. They do not have access to safe drinking water, required healthcare facilities or jobs in order to survive. They also have demanded that Anderson, who was the Chairman of UC at the time of disaster should be prosecuted.
What is the worth of Worker?
In order to understand the events leading to Bhopal Gas disaster, we need to understand why a factory was set up by the Union Carbide in India.
One of the main reasons why foreign companies set up plants in India is due to availability of cheap labour. Wages paid to workers in the developed countries for example the USA is many times higher than poor regions of India. These companies also get long hours of work by offering low wages to these poor workers. Additional employee benefits such as demand for housing facilities is also not high. Thus companies are able to save costs and earn high profits.
These foreign companies also rely on many dangerous means in order to cut costs. Workers work in lower working conditions for long hours where safety measures are ignored by company officials. The UC plant consisted of malfunctioning safety devices or they were not provided to workers in adequate numbers. Between 1980 and 1984 the officials had cut down the work crew for this plant to six from 12. The workers were trained in safety training for only 15 days as compared to six months earlier. The UC officials also abolished the post of night shift worker.
A report based on a comparison between UC plant of USA and India states that at UC plant in West Virginia, there were computerized warning and monitoring systems installed. However, the plant in Bhopal relied on human sense and manual gauges in order to detect gas leaks. The Virginia plant had an emergency evacuation plan ready, however, it was non-existent in the case of Bhopal.
Another question is regarding the worth of an Indian worker and why they received such a low compensation amount. It is based on this notion that the Indian workers are easily replaceable. As the unemployment rate in India is high, therefore the Indian workers are ready to work in inhuman conditions on the basis of even low wages. The employers are cleverly making use of this vulnerability of the workers and ignore safety measures.
Even though the Bhopal Gas Tragedy took place around three decades back, there has been reports of accidents in mines, construction sites or factories due to employers’ careless attitude.
Enforcement of Safety Laws
As the enforcer and lawmaker, the government needs to ensure that safety laws get implemented at the workplaces. The GoI should also ensure the Right to Life which falls under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is followed properly.
When the UC incident took place, the safety laws were not implemented seriously in India. Even the existing safety laws which were weak, were not enforced. The government allowed the plant to be set in the populous locality of Bhopal and even refused to foresee or recognize it as hazardous consequences.
In 1978, when few officials from the Bhopal Municipal Board objected to the installation of this plant, the government insisted that the state needed continued investment of Bhopal plant which would create jobs for the locals. According to them, it was unthinkable to ask UC to implement safety procedures or cleaner technologies. The officials from the government kept on approving the UC procedures. There were repeated leaks from this factory which made everyone sure there was something wrong.
This case is contrary to the role of law making and enforcement agency. Instead of protecting the interests of people working there, both this private company and the government disregarded people’s safety. This is completely unacceptable.
As both local and foreign ventures are setting up factories in India, there is a need for stronger laws in order to protect the rights of workers and enforce these laws in a better manner.
New Laws to Protect the Environment
Until 1984, there were very few laws in India in order to protect the environment. Further, they were hardly enforced. The industries were allowed to pollute water and air in India without any fear. They treated the environment as a ‘free’ entity. The rivers, air, groundwater were polluted on a large scale and health of people was ignored completely.
Apart from being a beneficiary of the lower safety standards, the UC didn’t need to spend any money in order to clear toxic waste which was leading cause of pollution in the region. However, it the US the cleaning process was an important part of the production itself.
As the Bhopal Gas Disaster took place, the issues of the environment got highlighted. As the poisonous gas leaked from the UC plant, several thousands of people who were not even working at the plant suffered from serious health issues. Due to this both people and the government realized that even though existing environment laws were weak, it only covered individual worker and not those workers who suffered because of industrial accidents.
As the pressure grew from environmental activists and others, the GoI introduced new laws related to the environment one year after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. From then onwards, the polluter was responsible for the environmental damages. The environment is a resource which will be shared by each generation. One can’t destroy it simply for industrial development.
Later on, the courts in India also gave several judgements where the Right to a Healthy Environment is intrinsic to the Right to Life under Fundamental Rights. In ‘Subhash Kumar vs. State of Bihar (1991)’ the Supreme Court (SC) held that Under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the Right to Life is a Fundamental right. It offers pollution free water and air to enjoy life fully. The GoI is responsible for making procedures and laws in order to check pollution and impose heavy fines on those who create it.
Vehicular emission is one of the leading causes of environmental pollution. From 1998 onwards, a series of rulings took place in the SC, where the apex court ordered that those public transports that use diesel need to switch to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Due to this judgement, air pollution problem in several cities including Delhi came down by a certain amount. However, New Delhi based Center for Science and Environment showed that the city’s air consists of toxic substances of different types in high level. It is due to this fact that the number of cars running on roads have increased in recent years and they all run on either diesel or petrol.
Environment as a Public Facility
During the recent times, the courts in India have delivered strong orders related to environmental issues. Such orders have even affected the livelihood of people. For example, a Court Order in Delhi asked those industries situated in Delhi’s residential areas to shift out of such areas. Most of these industries were polluting the neighbourhood areas and were even polluting the Yamuna river. All such industries were set up without following any rules.
However, as one problem was solved, a new one arose. As the factories closed down, many workers lost their jobs. Others had to shift to those far-off places where these factories had been relocated. Even at the new places, the factories kept pollution unchecked and safety conditions of the workers were not taken care of as well.
Recent research regarding environmental issues in our country has shown that growing concern related to environmental pollution among the middle class is often at poor families’ expenses. For example, in the names of a city’s beautification drive often a polluting factory is moved to outer area. Awareness related to environmental concern have increased nowadays, however, there is a little concern among the workers.
The government should come with solutions where every citizen will benefit from a clean environment. The factories should adopt cleaner processes and technologies. The government should also encourage this process. Those who pollute the environment should be imposed with hefty penalty. It will ensure that the living areas of workers remain safe.
In several situations, the laws are necessary in order to protect the people from unfair practises. Business persons, private companies, contractors indulge in unfair means such as employing children in hazardous activities, paying low wages to the workers, ignoring the environmental damages, not providing safety procedures to the workers, etc. in order to gain profit.
In order to control the activities of private companies, the government should make, uphold and enforce laws in order to prevent injustice. Laws which are weak in nature can cause serious harm.
Question and Answer
Q1. Talk to two workers (For example, construction workers, farm workers, factory workers, workers at any shop) to find out if they are receiving the minimum wages laid down by law.
Answer. In Delhi, a semi-skilled worker is paid Rs 350 per day which is far lower than the amount of minimum wage as set up by the government which is Rs 565. Similarly, an assistant employed at a Departmental Store gets only Rs 6000 which is far lower.
Q2. What are the advantages to foreign companies in setting up production in India?
Answer. In a country like the USA, the companies need to pay a good amount of salary which also includes the cost of production. However, since the rate of employment is higher in India, therefore, these companies can easily higher workers at low wages that too by cutting the safety costs. Also, in India since workers are easily replaceable, therefore a poor worker doesn’t think twice before taking up such a low paid job.
Q3. Do you think the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy got justice? Discuss.
Answer. The victims of Bhopal gas tragedy got only partial justice. They were offered compensation amount which was low. Even today, the survivors continue to suffer due to radiation. Not even one person responsible for this tragedy has been punished by the court till date.
Q4. What do we mean when we speak about law enforcement? Who is responsible for enforcement?
Answer. The implementation of certain laws in an area is called law enforcement. The government officials are responsible for enforcing the laws.
Q5. How can laws ensure that markets work in a manner that is fair? Give two examples to support your answer.
Answer. The producer, consumer and worker are three main functionaries of a market. None of these three should be exploited in the hands of one another. The government should implement laws properly in order to prevent exploitation of one in the hands of another. Those who are responsible for creating divide should be punished by the law.