Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar
Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar

Politicians will do anything for votes. The BJP-JJP government in Haryana, facing the heat on account of the ongoing farmers’ protest, has chosen a diversionary device to try and arrest its falling popularity. The proposed law to reserve three-fourths of the jobs with Rs 50,000 monthly pay only for those born in the state may be mere grandstanding but, nonetheless, it revives bad memories of the toxic atmosphere created in the 70s and 80s when politicians had the sons-of-the-soil criterion for jobs and seats in educational institutions.

Eventually, the clamour died down without eroding the constitutional freedom to practise trade, occupation and business in any part of the country. That laudatory principle will still test the Haryana law and, as a result, it will not be implemented. Its movers may not be worried about that outcome so long as they are able to hoodwink the voters into believing in their good intentions. Of course, such a law, if implemented, would be a disincentive for employers to invest in the state.

Moreover, the existing industries and businesses will not only drop expansion plans, preferring instead other states which do not interfere in such matters, but it might cause a further informalisation of labour through the opaque contract system. It is odd that just when the Central Government is modernising the one-sided labour laws, amending the grossly unfair employer-unfriendly provisions in the industrial relations manual, yet another state has sought to queer the pitch by seeking to tie the hands of businesses.

Needless to say, should jobs-for-locals were to actually become the law, it would further increase the headache of employers, making them vulnerable to the demands of inspectors. An element of the licence-and-quota raj is sought to be thus brought back in the garb of job creation for the Haryana-born. Given that the state is fortunate to be a neighbour of Delhi and as a result, enjoys a huge advantage in attracting talent from the national capital, it is wrong in squandering this advantage by its wrong-headedness in advancing a most retrograde form of nativism.

Instead, the ruling coalition would do well to take urgent steps to ensure that the Haryana youth entering the job market have the wherewithal to get employment by dint of their skills and training. Gurugram, the automobile and IT hub adjoining Delhi, which alone contributes by far the largest chunk of revenue to the state’s coffers, would have failed to attain this status had such constrictive conditions been imposed on its employment practices.

All said and done, the Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2020, is unlikely to get the nod of the constitutional authorities. In the unlikely event it does, on appeal the higher judiciary would club it with other such bills, for example, passed by the Andhra legislature, and suspend its implementation. As and when the courts pronounce on the matter, it will only result in voiding these opportunistic measures.

At a time when the Central Government takes pride in having introduced one-tax-one- country by way of GST, an effort to subdivide the labour market, with each state and UT having its own separate market, should be particularly galling. The BJP leadership should instruct Manohar Lal Khattar to shun such cheap publicity gimmicks.

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Free Press Journal