Updated: August 9, 2019 4:53:42 am
With a new law making it mandatory for industrial and service sector units in Andhra Pradesh to cap migrant workforce at 25 per cent, and employ three out of four employees from within the state, several leaders of the industry in the state have voiced scepticism.
According to them, bifurcated Andhra Pradesh being a new state, it does not yet have the skill-set required among local workers, and that the government is rushing through with the policy.
While the government has given three years to implement the law, the first to be affected will be workers from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar and Odisha, who work at power plants; the Sri City SEZ, which has many industrial units — from rail coach manufacturing to Isuzu motors to Pepsico and mobile phone manufacturers; Polavaram project; and big construction sites across the state.
Over 5 lakh migrants are estimated to be employed in the state’s industries, and many more in hotels, restaurants, small businesses, and the informal sector.
O Naresh Kumar, founder-CEO of Symbiosys Technologies and advisory board member of the Information Technology Association of Andhra Pradesh, said as a new state, which is primarily agrarian, AP cannot afford to have such policies. “It may look good from the popular perspective, (but) on the business side you need to follow Bengaluru, which has more than 40 per cent migratory skilled workforce,” Kumar said.
On July 24, Andhra Pradesh Assembly passed AP Employment of Local Candidates in Industries and Factories Bill, 2019, which requires all units to employ 75 per cent candidates from the state. It applies to all public-private joint ventures, industries and factories in the state. The rule also applies to existing units, which have to comply with the rule within three years.
Andhra Pradesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry Federation’s (APCCIF) president G Sambasiva Rao said engaging 75 per cent local workforce is not a problem if skilled manpower is available. “But what can an entrepreneur or industrialist do if little or no local skilled manpower is available? For instance, few locals are interested in working as drivers of heavy vehicles and earth-moving machines at construction sites. All (such) drivers are from Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha or Chhattisgarh,” he said.
Defending the new policy, state Labour, Employment, Training and Factories Minister P Gummanur Jayaram said it is meant to ensure employment for the local youth. “After AP Employment of Local Candidates in Industries and Factories Bill was passed, there are apprehensions that non-locals will lose jobs. (But) that cannot be helped. Our stand is that the industry still employ 25 per cent non-locals. If locals do not have the required skills, then they should be trained,” he said.
Jayaram also said the state government will open skill training centres in all Lok Sabha constituencies. “In the next three years, I think enough youths would be trained to be eligible to work in all industries,” he added.
But APCCIF’s Rao maintained locals are “not interested” in joining work in some sectors — construction and hospitality, among others. “We discussed these concerns with the minister. He said industries are free to employ outsiders wherever local workforce is not available,” Rao said.
A spokesperson for KIA Motors, which employs nearly 5,000 people, said the company does not want to comment on the issue right now.
While minister Jayaram dismissed apprehensions that the new policy may discourage new investments coming to the state, and maintained that more units will be set up in AP “because we are going to ensure skilled local manpower is readily available”, Naresh Kumar of Symbiosys Technologies did not quite agree. Stating that the manufacturing and service sectors are “nonexistent” in Andhra, Kumar said, “Service requires highly talented and skilled people. To develop our state, we need inputs in both manufacturing and service sectors, and for that we need heavy investment and skilled manpower. Placing restrictions on entry of skilled people will definitely impact investments and employment in the state.”
Talking about the absence of skills in the state, Vishnu Kumar Raju said, “Technique of construction of highrise buildings has moved to shear wall technology. But locals do not know that technology, and neither are they willing to learn quickly. A majority of the workforce acquainted with this technology comes from Kolkata. How can I recruit 75 per cent workforce locally when they are not aware of emerging technologies?”
The owner of a four-star hotel in Vijayawada (name withheld on request) maintained that locals do not want to work in hospitality industry.
“Ninety per cent of our staff are from the Northeast or Odisha. I think the government should be lenient with this (policy). They fulfilled an election promise but it is difficult to implement in certain sectors,” he said.
Rao, meanwhile, pointed out that in AP most units already employ 75 to 90 per cent local staff where they are available.
“Since many years, industry in the state prefers to employ local manpower as they are easy to manage, and facilities such as housing, etc, do not have to be provided,” he said.
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