Monthly Archives: June 2020

UK’s Largest Indian Dating Website removes Question on Skin Tone

23rd June 2020

We reported in our spring newsletter that an Asian dating website was responsible by means of an algorithm to exclude Scheduled Castes (Dalits) from certain matches., a marriage site for the Indian community in the UK, the US and elsewhere, is back in the headlines again.

Originally, subscribers to the website were asked how dark or light their skin tone was – it is commonly believed that a darker skin tone denotes a lower caste and that lighter skin tones are more desirable. Following the Black Lives Matter movement, a subscriber from the US started a petition to remove the colour filter from the website, and after garnering more than 1500 signatures in just 14 hours, decided to remove it.

While this is a victory, it is disturbing that several subscribers have reported that previously they were rejected by potential matches, based on their skin tone. Although the severity of caste discrimination suffered amongst the Diaspora in the west is milder in comparison to those in South Asia, there is obviously much that still has to be done to tackle both conscious and unconscious bias.

On the website, it is still possible to search for partners by caste, and while many members in the UK add that caste is no bar to finding a suitable partner, not all of them do. For those who refuse to put their caste down, we do not know whether this is embarrassment or concern over not finding someone should they mention that they are a member of a Scheduled Caste, or whether it is because caste is genuinely not an issue that concerns them when looking for a spouse.

Whether we like it or not, caste remains an identifier for some in the diaspora – and skin tone just another method of making a judgement.

6 States in India Change their Labour Laws at Significant Cost to Workers and their Rights

16th June 2020

Labour laws are considered to be one of the most important tools in protecting the workforce from exploitation, ensuring anything from the maximum number of working hours to health and safety at work. Why, then, are some states in India throwing out the rulebooks?

Supposedly this is in response to assisting the economy in recovering from the Covid-19 crisis, while some have suggested that it may be an attempt to steal back some of the cheap labour market from China. Regardless of the reason, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab are all making changes that contravene the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) conventions. The government in Uttar Pradesh is aiming for a three-year exemption from current labour laws, including those that relate to settling industrial disputes, occupational safety, and health and working conditions. Trades unions, contract workers and migrant labourers are also in their firing line. In many of the affected states working shifts will be increased from 8 hours to 12 hours, and the working week increased from 48 hours to 72 hours a week. Furthermore, no inspections will be carried out if the firm has less than 50 workers.

During the current crisis, labour net-importing states have seen a shortage of workers, which has driven up wages. Consequently, some states have attempted to restrict migrant labour from returning home – the Gujarat government is even considering allowing factories to start disciplinary proceedings against workers who have returned to their home state, despite this being against Article 23 of the Constitution, which provides a ‘right against exploitation’.

After spending the early years of the 21st century attempting to amend and modernise labour laws, India has taken a massive step backwards in protecting the rights of workers. Criticism has been levelled at the country not only by a number of trades unions who have been organising protests, but internationally as well. DSN-UK fully endorses the statement issued by the Ethical Trading Initiative calling on its members to take steps to increase dialogue, and it is hoped that the British government will voice its concerns to India and ensure that workers’ rights remain inviolable.