A locals-first-policy on the employment front, through a bill passed by the Haryana government on November 5, has left the workers in the state—both migrant as well as locals—questioning the feasibility and efficacy of such a measure.
Harish Pradhan, 34, a diploma holder in computer science from Rewari, who was forced to migrate to Gujarat after facing rejections in the state, offered an explanation, “All workers from my village did their best to find work in the many industrial towns nearby, before migrating to other states. Being a local of the area, companies reject them straight away. ‘Locals do more union-baazi (union-related activities) than work,’ is often the reason behind denying jobs.” He has been working at an IT firm in Ahmedabad since the past two years.
The bill passed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – led Haryana government, reserves 75% of the new jobs drawing a salary of less than Rs. 50,000 per month in private sector for the local population in the state. Additionally, it requires the company to do 10% of the recruiting from the district in which it is located.
The move, a poll promise of its alliance partner Jannayak Janata Party (JJP), came at a time when the state government is faced with a mammoth unemployment rate – 27.3%, as against the national average of 6.98% in the month of October, according to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy.
Once it becomes the law, the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2020 will draw penalties to companies, societies, trusts, and limited liability partnership firms among others located in the state for contravening the provisions – thus, effectively bringing almost all the factory and blue-collar jobs under its legal quota fold.
For quite obvious reasons such as undermining the industrial competitiveness, the bill has already drawn flak from the business leaders who warn the Haryana government of losing investments in the days to come.
Projected as a “socially, economically and environmentally desirable” move even then, does the bill serve the interests of the workers in the states? Not really, for it fails to reason why the locals were denied employment in the first place. A case in point here being Pradhan’s experience.
“I searched for a proper job in Bawal, Binola, Manesar, and many others for years,” he told NewsClick over phone from Ahmedabad. These three regions in Haryana boast of industrial towns that house manufacturing units of major auto manufacturer companies and their ancillary producing units.
“Tum log sirf goonda gardi karne ka sochte ho, service karne ka nahi (Your people only think about hooliganism, and never of engaging in the service) – is what I was usually told,” Pradhan said. The aversion to ‘locals’ is such that, he recalled, many of his friends had to arrange fake ration cards – bearing address of some other state – just to secure employment in a company in the state.
“Unko skill vagerah se koi matlab nahi, who sab toh aaj kal har koi seekh sakta hai 1-2 mahine ki training ke baad (The industry doesn’t worry much about skills since that can be acquired by any worker after 1-2 months’ training),” Pradhan added.
Indeed it is so, as even agreed by Major K C Sandal (Retd.), vice president, Gurgaon (now Gurugram) Industrial Association. “The youth in Haryana is often not mentally prepared to absorb in the industry. They are rough people, who are often not even trained properly,” he said.
Asked what he meant by this, he reiterated what Pradhan has heard often. “Union baazi karte hai yeh log; production rukwate hai (The local youth will engage in union-related activates and disrupt production),” Sandal said, adding there are “not more than 15%” locals employed in manufacturing units in Gurugram currently.
Divya Varma of Aajeevika Bureau, a Rajasthan-based public service initiative that works with migrant workers, opined this to be the prime reason behind the existing strong preference of industries for migrant workers.
“Especially when it comes to a political leverage, the industries benefit by employing migrant workers because – a) their bargaining power is lesser; b) local politicians don’t see them as their constituency, since most migrants are bereft of voting rights,” Varma explained.
Add to this the fact that migrants are “so scattered” in the city, as Varma added, that their collective demands never find space within any political force, ruefully not even within a traditional trade union setup.
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The said legislation, that is yet receive the Haryana Governor’s assent, however, does provide for training of local aspirants – those who are either born in Haryana or have lived in the state for at least 15 years.
It also allows the employers to claim exemption from the quota provisions in situations when adequate number of local candidates with desired skills or qualifications are not available. Sandal of the industrial association felt that this will only lead to “inspector raj”.
Multiple media reports have also suggested that the legislation may not even see the day of light, as it is bound to attract constitutional challenges – as has been the case when similar domicile quotas were pitched by state governments including that of Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh among others.
Interestingly, a similar ordinance introduced in the month of July this year by Haryana Government had failed to receive Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya’s approval.
Meanwhile, Abhishek Singh Tomar, a contract worker in an auto-component manufacturing unit in Manesar called the jobs quota “nothing but another political stunt.” A 31-year old who migrated from MP’s Gwalior nine years ago, he remains confident about his future though. “There are very less local workers in Manesar, almost every one who is employed here is from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, or Madhya Pradesh,” said Tomar, who is able to make about Rs. 18,000 per month, after a 12-hour daily work shift.
“Jobs kaha hai bhaiyyaa private sector mein, jo quota doge (Where are jobs in the private sector to reserve),” he quipped, adding, “the government must also answer whether the reserved jobs would be permanent or contractual.”
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