To contain the spread of COVID-19 in India, the central government imposed a nation-wide lockdown on March 24, 2020.  Under the lockdown most economic activities, other than those classified as essential activities, were suspended.  States have noted that this loss of economic activity has resulted in a loss of income for many individuals and businesses.  To allow some economic activities to start, some states have provided relaxations to establishments from their existing labour laws.  This blog explains the manner in which labour is regulated in India, and the various relaxations in labour laws that are being announced by various states. 

How is labour regulated in India?

Labour falls under the Concurrent List of the Constitution.  Therefore, both Parliament and State Legislatures can make laws regulating labour.  Currently, there are over 100 state laws and 40 central laws regulating various aspects of labour such as resolution of industrial disputes, working conditions, social security, and wages.  To improve ease of compliance and ensure uniformity in central level labour laws, the central government is in the process of codifying various labour laws under four Codes on (i) industrial relations, (ii) occupational safety, health and working conditions, (iii) wages, and (iv) social security.  These Codes subsume laws such as the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Factories Act, 1948, and the Payment of Wages Act, 1936.   

How do state governments regulate labour?

A state may regulate labour by: (i) passing its own labour laws, or (ii) amending the central level labour laws, as applicable to the state.   In cases where central and state laws are incompatible, central laws will prevail and the state laws will be void.  However, a state law that is incompatible with central laws may prevail in that state if it has received the assent of the President.  For example: In 2014, Rajasthan amended the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.  Under the Act, certain special provisions with regard to retrenchment, lay-off and closure of establishments applied to establishments with 100 or more workers.  For example, an employer in an establishment with 100 or more workers required permission from the central or state government prior to retrenchment of workers.  Rajasthan amended the Act to increase the threshold for the application of these special provisions to establishments with 300 workers.  This amendment to the central law prevailed in Rajasthan as it received the assent of the President. 

Which states have passed relaxations to labour laws?

The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet has approved an ordinance, and Madhya Pradesh has promulgated an ordinance, to relax certain aspects of existing labour laws.  Further, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh have notified relaxations to labour laws through rules.

Madhya Pradesh:  On May 6, 2020, the Madhya Pradesh government promulgated the Madhya Pradesh Labour Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.  The Ordinance amends two state laws: the Madhya Pradesh Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1961, and the Madhya Pradesh Shram Kalyan Nidhi Adhiniyam, 1982.  The 1961 Act regulates the conditions of employment of workers and applies to all establishments with 50 or more workers.  The Ordinance increases this threshold to 100 or more workers.  Therefore, the Act will no longer apply to establishments with between 50 and 100 workers that were previously regulated.  The 1982 Act provides for the constitution of a Fund that will finance activities related to welfare of labour.  The Ordinance amends the Act to allow the state government to exempt any establishment or class of establishments from the provisions of the Act through a notification.  These provisions include payment of contributions into the Fund by employers at the rate of three rupees every six months. 

Further, the Madhya Pradesh government has exempted all new factories from certain provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.  Provisions related to lay-off and retrenchment of workers, and closure of establishments will continue to apply.  However, the other provisions of the Act such as those related to industrial dispute resolution, strikes and lockouts, and trade unions, will not apply.   This exemption will remain in place for the next 1,000 days (33 months).  Note that the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 allows the state government to exempt certain establishments from the provisions of the Act as long as it is satisfied that a mechanism is in place for the settlement and investigation of industrial disputes.

Uttar Pradesh

The Uttar Pradesh Cabinet has approved the Uttar Pradesh Temporary Exemption from Certain Labour Laws Ordinance, 2020.  According to news reports, the Ordinance seeks to exempt all factories and establishments engaged in manufacturing processes from all labour laws for a period of three years, subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions.  These conditions include:

  • Wages:  The Ordinance specifies that workers cannot be paid below minimum wage.  Further, workers must be paid within the time limit prescribed in the Payment of Wages Act, 1936.  The Act specifies that: (i) establishments with less than 1,000 workers must pay wages before the seventh day after the last day of the wage period and (ii) all other establishments must pay wages before the tenth day after the last day of the wage period.  Wages must be paid into the bank accounts of workers. 

  • Health and safety:   The Ordinance states that provisions of health and safety specified in the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996 and Factories Act, 1948 will continue to apply.  These provisions regulate the usage of dangerous machinery, inspections, and maintenance of factories, amongst others. 

  • Work Hours:  Workers cannot be required to work more than eleven hours a day and the spread of work may not be more than 12 hours a day. 

  • Compensation:  In the case of accidents leading to death or disability, workers will be compensated as per the Employees Compensation Act, 1923. 

  • Bonded Labour: The Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 will continue to remain in force.  It provides for the abolition of the bonded labour system.   Bonded labour refers to the system of forced labour where a debtor enters into an agreement with the creditor under certain conditions such as to repay his or a family members debt, due to his caste or community, or due to a social obligation.  

  • Women and children:  Provisions of labour laws relating to the employment of women and children will continue to apply.  

It is unclear if labour laws providing for social security, industrial dispute resolution, trade unions, strikes, amongst others, will continue to apply to businesses in Uttar Pradesh for the period of three years specified in the Ordinance.  Since the Ordinance is restricting the application of central level labour laws, it requires the assent of the President to come into effect. 

Changes in work hours

The Factories Act, 1948 allows state governments to exempt factories from provisions related to work hours for a period of three months if factories are dealing with an exceptional amount of work.  Further, state governments may exempt factories from all provisions of the Act in the case of public emergencies.  The Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Goa, Assam and Uttarakhand governments passed notifications to increase maximum weekly work hours from 48 hours to 72 hours and daily work hours from 9 hours to 12 hours for certain factories using this provision.  Further, Madhya Pradesh has exempted all factories from the provisions of the Factories Act, 1948 that regulate work hours.  These state governments have noted that an increase in work hours would help address the shortage of workers caused by the lockdown and longer shifts would ensure fewer number of workers in factories allowing for social distancing to be maintained.   Table 1 shows the state-wise increase in maximum work hours. 

Table 1: State-wise changes to work hours



Maximum weekly work hours

Maximum daily work hours

Overtime Pay (2x ordinary wages)

Time period


All factories

Increased from 48 hours to 72 hours 

Increased from 9 hours to 12 hours 

Not required

Three months

Himachal Pradesh

All factories

Increased from 48 hours to 72 hours 

Increased from 9 hours to 12 hours 


Three months


All factories distributing essential goods and manufacturing essential goods and food

Increased from 48 hours to 72 hours 

Increased from 9 hours to 12 hours 


Three months


All factories

Not specified  

Increased from 9 hours to 12 hours 


Two months

Uttar Pradesh

All factories

Increased from 48 hours to 72 hours 

Increased from 9 hours to 12 hours 

Not required

Three months*


All factories and continuous process industries that are allowed to function by government

Maximum 6 days of work a week

Two shifts of 12 hours each.


Three months


All factories

Not specified

Increased from 9 hours to 12 hours 


Three months


All factories

Not specified

Increased from 9 hours to 12 hours 


Approximately three months

Madhya Pradesh

All factories

Not specified

Not specified

Not specified

Three months

Note: *The Uttar Pradesh notification was withdrawn

Early this week, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India tabled a report on the finances of Uttar Pradesh for the financial year 2020-21.  A few days prior to that, on May 26, the budget for Uttar Pradesh for 2022-23 was presented, along with which the final audited expenditure and receipt figures for the year 2020-21 were released.  The year 2020-21 presented a two-fold challenge for states – loss in revenue due to impact of COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, and the need for increased expenditure to support affected persons and economic recovery.  CAG noted that Uttar Pradesh’s GSDP grew by 1.05% in 2020-21 as compared to a growth of 6.5% in 2019-20.  The state reported a revenue deficit of Rs 2,367 crore in 2020-21 after reporting revenue surplus for 14 successive years since 2006-07.  Revenue deficit is the excess of revenue expenditure over revenue receipts.  This blog looks at the key trends in the finances of Uttar Pradesh in 2020-21 and certain observations by CAG on fiscal management by the state.

Spending and Deficits in 2020-21

Underspending:  In 2020-21, total spending by the state was 26% less than the budget estimate presented in February 2020.  In sectors such as water supply and sanitation, the actual expenditure was 60% less than the amount budgeted, while in agriculture and allied activities only 53% of the budgeted amount was spent.  CAG observed that in 251 schemes across 57 departments, the state government did not incur any expenditure in 2020-21.  These schemes had a budget provision of at least one crore rupees, and had cumulative allocation of Rs 50,617 crore.  These included schemes such as Pipe Drinking Water Scheme in Bundelkhand/Vindhya and apportionment of pension liabilities.  Moreover, the overall savings due to non-utilisation of funds in 2020-21 was 27.28% of total budget provisions.  CAG observed that the budgetary provisions increased between 2016 and 2021.  However, the utilisation of budget provisions reduced between 2018-19 and 2020-21.

Pattern of spending: CAG observed that in case of 12 departments, more than 50% of the expenditure was incurred in March 2021, the last month of the financial year.  In the civil aviation department, 89% of the total expenditure was incurred in March while this figure was 62% for the social welfare department (welfare of handicapped and backward classes).  CAG noted that maintaining a steady pace of expenditure is a sound practice under public financial management.  However, the Uttar Pradesh Budget Manual has no specific instructions for preventing such bunching of expenditure.  The CAG recommended that the state government can consider issuing guidelines to control the rush of expenditure towards the closing months of the financial year.

Management of deficit and debt: As a measure to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, an Ordinance was promulgated in June 2020 to raise the fiscal deficit limit from 3% of GSDP to 5% of GSDP for the year 2020-21.   Fiscal deficit represents the gap between expenditure and receipts in a year, and this gap is filled with borrowings.   The Uttar Pradesh Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2004 (FRBM Act) passed by Uttar Pradesh Assembly specifies the upper limit for debt and deficits.  The Ordinance thus permitted the state government to borrow more to sustain its budget expenditure.  The fiscal deficit of the state in 2020-21 was 3.20% of GSDP, well below the revised limit. At the same time, the state’s outstanding debt to GSDP in 2020-21 was 32.77% of GSDP, above the target of 32% of GSDP set under the FRBM Act.  Outstanding debt represents accumulation of debt over the years.  

Table 1: Spending by Uttar Pradesh in 2020-21 as compared to Budget Estimates (in Rs crore)


2020-21 BE

2020-21 Actuals

% change from BE to Actuals

Net Receipts (1+2)




1. Revenue Receipts (a+b+c+d)




a. Own Tax Revenue




b. Own Non-Tax Revenue




c. Share in central taxes




d. Grants-in-aid from the Centre




Of which GST compensation grants




2. Non-Debt Capital Receipts




3. Borrowings




Of which GST compensation loan




Net Expenditure (4+5+6)




4. Revenue Expenditure




5. Capital Outlay




6. Loans and Advances




7. Debt Repayment




Revenue Balance




Revenue Balance (as % of GSDP)




Fiscal Deficit




Fiscal Deficit (as % of GSDP)




Note: A negative revenue balance indicates a deficit.  The actual fiscal deficit reported by Uttar Pradesh for 2020-21 in 2022-23 budget was 2.8% of GSDP.  This difference was due to higher GSDP figure reported by the state.  
Sources: Uttar Pradesh Budget Documents of various years; CAG; PRS.

Finances of State Public Sector Undertakings

Public sector undertakings (PSUs) are set up by the government to discharge commercial activities in various sectors.  As on March 31, 2021, there were 115 PSUs in Uttar Pradesh.  CAG analysed the performance of 38 PSUs.   Out of these 38 PSUs, 22 companies earned a profit of Rs 700 crore, while 16 companies posted a loss of Rs 7,411 crore in 2020-21.  Note that both the number of PSUs incurring losses and the quantum of losses has decreased since 2018-19.  In 2018-19, 20 PSUs had reported losses worth Rs 15,219 crore.  

Figure 1: Cumulative losses incurred by Uttar Pradesh PSUs (Rs crore)
 Sources: CAG; PRS.

Losses of power sector PSUs: Three power sector PSUs—Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Limited, Purvanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited, and Paschimanchal Vidyut Vitran Nigam Limited—were the top loss incurring PSUs.  These three PSUs accounted for 73% of the total losses of Rs 7,411 crore mentioned above.   Note that as of June 2022, for each unit of power supplied, the revenue realised by UP power distribution companies (discoms) is 27 paise less than cost of supply.  This is better than the gap of 34 paise per unit at the national level.   However, the aggregate technical and commercial losses (AT&C) of the Uttar Pradesh discoms was 27.85%, considerably higher than the national average of 17.19%.  AT&C losses refer to the proportion of power supplied by a discom for which it does not receive any payment.

Off-budget borrowings: CAG also observed that the Uttar Pradesh government resorted to off-budget borrowing through state owned PSUs/authorities.  Off budget borrowings are not accounted in the debt of the state government and are on books of the respective PSUs/authorities, although, debt is serviced by the state government.  As a result, the outstanding debt reported in the budget does not represent the actual debt position of the state.  CAG identified off-budget borrowing worth Rs 1,637 crore.  The CAG recommended that the state government should avoid extra-budget borrowings.  It should also credit all the loans taken by PSUs/authorities on behalf of and serviced by the state government to state government accounts.

Management of Reserve Funds

The Reserve Bank of India manages two reserve funds on the behalf of state governments.   These funds are created to meet the liabilities of state governments.  These funds are: (i) Consolidated Sinking Fund (CSF), and (ii) Guarantee Redemption Fund (GRF).  They are funded by the contributions made by the state governments.  CSF is an amortisation fund which is utilised to meet the repayment obligations of the government.  Amortisation refers to payment of debt through regular instalments.  The interest accumulated in the fund is used for repayment of outstanding liabilities (which is the accumulation of total borrowings at the end of a financial year, including any liabilities on the public account).  

In line with the recommendation of the 12th Finance Commission, Uttar Pradesh created its CSF in March 2020.  The state government may transfer at least 0.5% of its outstanding liabilities at the end of the previous year to the CSF.  CAG observed that in 2020-21, Uttar Pradesh appropriated only Rs 1,000 crore to the CSF against the requirement of Rs 2,454 crore.  CAG recommended that the state government should ensure at least 0.5% of the outstanding liabilities are contributed towards the CSF every year.

GRF is constituted by states to meet obligations related to guarantees.  The state government may extend guarantee on loans taken by its PSUs.  Guarantees are contingent liabilities of the state government, as in case of default by the company, repayment burden will fall on the state government.  GRF can be used to settle guarantees extended by the government with respect to borrowings of state PSUs and other bodies.  The 12th Finance Commission had recommended that states should constitute GRF.  It was to be funded through guarantees fees to meet any sudden discharge of obligated guarantees extended by the states.  CAG noted that Uttar Pradesh government has not constituted GRF.  Moreover, the state has also not fixed any limits for extending guarantees.  

For an analysis of Uttar Pradesh’s 2022-23 budget, please see here.