India's Modi unveils reforms to boost manufacturing

AFP  | 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday unveiled a string of labour reforms, seeking to fulfil a pledge to boost the country's manufacturing sector.

Modi, whose right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party swept to power in May on a mandate to revive India's flagging economy, said he wanted to simplify the byzantine rules and regulations that manufacturing businesses face.

"We have replaced 16 forms (for factory owners) with one form, which will be available online," Modi said in a speech in New Delhi.

He also announced plans to streamline labour laws and make scrutiny of factories less cumbersome.

Businesses argue that conforming to India's 44 national and more than 150 state labour laws is not only costly and time-consuming but has deterred foreign investors.

Business leaders welcomed Thursday's announcements, which followed an Independence Day speech in August in which Modi invited the world's industries to set up shop in the South Asian country.

"Simplification of procedures has been a longstanding concern for industry," said Chandrajit Banerjee, director general of the Confederation of Indian Industry, in a statement.

"This initiative... will considerably ease the burden of compliances."

Modi, the 63-year-old son of a low-caste tea seller, also called for greater respect for manual labourers in status-conscious India.

"We must change the way we look at manual labourers. We must respect them if we are to surge ahead as a country," he said.

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