The prolonged COVID-19 lockdown has adversely affected industries across the country, especially in Haryana where the exodus of migrant labourers has posed a severe crisis of workers after the industries resumed their operations. Around 70 to 80 per cent labourers working in Haryana hail from other states.
This issue of labour shortage, however, facilitates political mileage for the ruling party in the state, more so as it suits the long-standing desire of the Jannayak Janata Party (JJP) led by Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala. The party had proposed in the assembly the securing of 75 per cent jobs for the local, state domicile youth in the private sector.
A draft bill in this regard is currently being scrutinised by the legal cell of the assembly, and once cleared, it will be taken up during the Monsoon session in July. When passed, Haryana will become only the second state in the country to mandate such reservation after Andhra Pradesh, which had passed a similar quota bill last July.
“There is a huge labour shortage in Haryana and many other states. Every state is currently mulling to secure jobs in their own states locally so that there is no exodus in future. This was part of our election manifesto and now it’s time to make it a rule,” said Chautala.
“The youth need jobs as per the employment data we have. Andhra Pradesh passed this bill last year. Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh too have such policies. Haryana’s revenue depends, largely, upon industries which are reeling under labour shortage and we have to ensure no exodus happens in future,” said the deputy chief minister.
However, he said the act will not be of permanent nature. For most migrant workers, who left for their home-states during the lockdown, Haryana is reportedly their domicile state as they have been living here and availing government facilities such as ration card, voters ID, etc. for over 10 years.
“The draft bill is being currently looked at by the legal remembrance (LR) cell. The LR cell is also looking into the domicile criteria. We believe that the state’s rojgar (employment) portal currently has at least 13 lakh youth (registered),” said the JJP leader, adding that Maharashtra has 80 per cent job policy for its locals and that the Uttar Pradesh government too is considering such rules.
The Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC), which has developed the industrial townships in the state, said that as per its policy, the industrial plot allottees shall prefer state domicile in job recruitment.
“That the allottee agrees and undertakes that he/she shall, as far as possible, employ 75 percent of unskilled workforce and give preference to candidates from among the Haryana domicile in the unit to be set up on industrial plots,” said the HSIIDC policy. However, it has hardly been followed by the industry owners who believe that the youth in the state are unskilled and less qualified.
“Since the creation of Haryana, preference has always been given to locals and it is a fact that not even five per cent locals are currently working in Haryana’s industries, especially the labour class, as majority of them are working in Delhi or central government offices. Also, industry owners don’t prefer local labourers as they are very aggressive. The government proposal is useless. It can only stay on paper, and never be implemented in letter and spirit,” said Aseem Takyar, a Manesar-based industry owner.
The move has, however, caused massive resentment among the industry owners who term it politically motivated, and believe that local employment to the extent of 75 per cent will have devastating impact on industries.
“We oppose the bill. No foreign investors will even think of coming to Haryana if this reservation policy bill is introduced. Skilled labourers in the state are in short supply,” said Ashok Kohli, president, Chamber of Industries of Udyog Vihar.
The industry owners said, currently, 90 per cent plots are vacant at IMT Mewat and 50 per cent at IMT Faridabad that no one is interested in buying, and that the fresh move of the government will further de-motivate new investors.
Praveen Yadav, president of Gurgaon Udyog Association, said that they have no objection against the hiring of locals if they are qualified for the job.
“However this law should not be enforced since currently, industries are at their all-time low. It is high time that various measures are taken to boost businesses, which in turn will boost the economy. We need to compete at global level to meet the requirements. This type of law will create hurdles for businesses,” he said.
Irked by the move, industry owners said that they can hit streets if needed, and even seek courts’ help, as they have not purchased any subsidised land, but at the market price from the government.
“We will not tolerate any such policy. We are facing the brunt of reservation-like monsters in government jobs and now this reservation policy in private industry; this is completely wrong and we will strongly oppose it. For this, if we have to hit the streets and agitate, we will do that too. If we have to approach the court, that’s the last way,” said Pawan Yadav, president of the IMT Manesar Industry Association.
The industry owners want the government to focus on skill development and create such competence among the youth of the state that they get employment on the basis of merit, since such an Act will demotivate industries.
“Industries will be forced to move outside Haryana due to this bill. It will be very difficult to run the IT industry with only local workforce and it will discourage foreign investment. Local workers can easily make unions in factories and create a law and order situation.” said Umesh Dwivedi, an industry owner.
Having JJP on the forefront, leaders of other parties and the independents have cautiously resorted to a ‘wait and watch’ tactic since they are not willing to take a chance on this and annoy the locals. However, many of them believe that the bill will not stand legal scrutiny.
“We have not seen the draft bill and have learnt about it only through media and reliable sources. It will certainly help provide employment to the local people and we have been fighting for it for a long time,” said Satya Prakash Jarawta, MLA, Pataudi constituency.
The bill has triggered a curiosity among the senior bureaucrats as well since most of the migrant workers – skilled and unskilled – are Haryana domicile.
“The draft bill was rejected earlier by the LR cell. After rectifying errors, the bill has been sent back to the LR cell for further scrutiny. There is no doubt that it is a hot topic for the political gallery, currently. We doubt if any state, even Andhra Pradesh that was the first to make this an Act, is forcing industries to adopt such policies,” said a senior bureaucrat familiar with the matter.
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“Like several other states, Haryana also has a policy that is hardly implemented. In this case, the draft bill too will face many hurdles – may be in court too as industry owners cannot be compelled to select locals at the cost of job quality,” added the bureaucrat.
The draft bill has to be passed by the assembly which is dominated by the BJP. Moved by JJP legislators, it may find it tough to garner majority support.
“We can think of an ordinance too,” hinted Chautala, who is adamant to make it a law and is preparing to meet the challenges for job surety for the locals.
Gurugram and Faridabad are the industrial hubs of Haryana; about 70-80 per cent of the odd 25,000 industries in the state are concentrated in these two cities. There are 250 Fortune 500 companies in Gurugram, besides nearly 300 automobile companies that generate 70-80 per cent of the total revenue. There are 6,000 odd garment industries in the city as well, which contribute to about 25-30 per cent revenue of the state.
“Industries in Gurugram need qualified and dignified skilled labourers. Can we terminate all those qualified and skilled labourers working in majority in our factories? Practically, this bill does not seem to be mature,” said Animesh Saxena, an industry owner.