DC Edit | To draw votes, Khattar’s quota sacrifices growth

Deccan Chronicle.

Opinion, DC Comment

If the government forces companies to take steps that may impact employee productivity, then it forces companies to be less than competitive

The ongoing farmers’ agitation, which has had a special impact in some northern regions, including Haryana, has left the Khattar government reeling and the so-called sons-of-the-soil policy seems a desperate bid to recover some lost ground. (Photo: PTI)

The move by the Haryana government to force the private sector to reserve 75 per cent jobs in their establishment for the people of the state is a regressive move. It also appears to be unconstitutional since our Constitution does not discriminate on the ground of place of birth. The decision of the Manohar Lal Khattar government announced last Tuesday is, in fact, shot through with political cynicism.

The ongoing farmers’ agitation, which has had a special impact in some northern regions, including Haryana, has left the Khattar government reeling and the so-called “sons-of-the-soil” policy seems a desperate bid to recover some lost ground. Needless to say, it militates against the very thought of “Ek Bharat, Shresth Bharat” which Prime Minister Narendra Modi injects into his speeches on a frequent basis.

The Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Act 2020 requires companies and other private entities — including trusts and societies — that have more than 10 employees to reserve three-fourths of all jobs where salaries will be below Rs 50,000/- per month for residents of the state or domiciles of Haryana. This is far from being a welfare move as it does not even pretend to efface iniquity. But even if it did so, it will be open to questioning. The basic reason is that such a step impinges on the right of individuals or a group of individuals to choose their business and profession in an open society.

If the government forces companies to take steps that may impact employee productivity, then it forces companies to be less than competitive. That goes against the grain of capitalist development. The idea of positive discrimination in a sociologically iniquitous context is for the state to promote through education and employment policies by enlarging opportunity following on appropriate investments, and not to be thrust down the gullet of private players. Indeed, obliging the non-government sector to enter the realm of states is a step in the wrong direction as it undermines the legitimacy of the state.

If all states were to follow suit, the mobility of labour and the freedom of Indians to compete anywhere in the country in search of work will be comprehensively stymied as one state will become like another country to other states, requiring work permits and visas. The people of Haryana, too, will be barred from working in other states. The dangerous principle on which such moves rest will also make a mockery of all-India services since India will cease to be common territory for the purpose of employment. If the idea is extended to the field of education, and other sectors, then we may conceivably be looking at the vivisection of India.

Andhra Pradesh has mandated 75 per cent reservation for locals and Karnataka seems to be contemplating quotas for locals in blue-collar employment. The Andhra Pradesh Bill has been challenged in the high court. It is time for the constitutionality of the matter to be settled by the Supreme Court. Caste and class are bad enough to divide society and the country. Motivated moves to catch votes by insecure political parties are something we can do without. 

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