NEW DELHI : In a large industrial park in Haryana’s Bahadurgarh, a supplier of zinc and aluminium die cast parts runs a busy plant. The company’s 150 staffers produce, polish and pack parts of security locks, sanitary and decorative hardware. Only about two per cent of the workers are native to Haryana.
Why are so few locals employed by the company? The company’s owner, who didn’t want to be identified because labour inspectors would come knocking, listed many reasons: workers from the state are inflexible; they don;t want to do overtime, and at the drop of a hat, they can create chaos, demand more money, fight.
Employing a large number of migrants on the factory floor has its drawbacks too but the industrialist said he had little choice. A large chunk of its workforce is from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. When they go on leave, it takes a month for them to return to work. “In contrast, local workers may take only two-three days off. But longer leaves are acceptable to us because it is lesser of an evil than handling locals,” he said.
Then consider Ignoxlabs Limited, a Gurugram-based company that provides emergency support and health monitoring services to elders under the brand Emoha Elder Care. The firm requires a mix of professionals, from nurses and nursing officers to paramedics and care coordinators.
“In our work, we always give credence to skills. The best quality nurses in the country come from Kerala. If all the nurses have to come from Haryana, there would be a challenge in good quality nursing,” Saumyajit Roy, co-founder & CEO of Emoha Elder Care, said.
For both these firms and thousands of private manufacturing and services companies operating in Haryana, a new bill seeking reservation has sparked off a debate that spans the rule of law as well as the role of business in nurturing local environments.
On November 5, the Haryana Legislative Assembly passed the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2020, which if enforced requires private companies in the state to offer 75% of the new employment to local candidates with a pay ceiling of ₹50,000 per month. The ceiling would ensure that all blue-collar workers, and also all entry-level white collar workers such as BPO and sales professionals, are covered within its ambit.
Industry bodies are, of course, opposing the bill tooth and nail. The Haryana bill comes in a post-pandemic world when the state is facing an unemployment crisis. Unemployment in the state in October 2020 was trending at over 27%, ahead of Rajasthan (24%) and Jammu and Kashmir (16%), data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) showed. There is a pressure on the state government to show the creation of jobs.
“Haryana is very sensitive to economic shocks. The state has a large number of industrial workers and many of them are contractual labourers. In an economic shock, these are the guys who lose their jobs quickly. And they are the ones who don’t get back the jobs equally fast,” said Vyas, managing director and CEO of CMIE . Over the last six months, contractual workers in the industrial belts of Gurugram, Manesar, Faridabad and Panipat have lost jobs.
Haryana is not the first state to attempt a reservation bill in private jobs. Neither would it be the last. In 2019, the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed the AP Employment of Local Candidates in Industries and Factories Bill that also sought to mandate 75% local employment.