for building a democratic labour movement in India
Jul 2, 2014
NEW DELHI: The Vasundhara Raje government in Rajasthan has moved a step closer to the complete overhaul of stringent labour laws by proposing amendments to the Apprentices and Boilers Acts, handing out flexibility to industry for skill development and ending “inspector raj”.
“We are seeking to transfer a lot of powers to the state apprenticeship council to create more jobs by providing greater flexibility to companies,” Rajasthan chief secretary Rajiv Mehrishi told TOI.
The proposed amendments to the law governing apprentices hired by companies will enable the state-level council to settle disputes and also deal with issues related to ethics and environment at the workplace. Similarly, the council, which includes industry representatives, will be able to decide on the level of participation of apprentices, since the numbers vary across sectors. Similarly, the entity can decide on imparting third-party training, which is also expected to drive skill development in the state and help companies bridge the gap of skilled manpower.
The latest move by the BJP government comes days after it approved state-level amendments to archaic labour laws including the Industrial Disputes Act, the Contract Labour Act and the Factories Act. The Narendra Modi government is keen to take up labour law reforms to boost manufacturing and create jobs and may follow the example of the Raje government to overhaul outdated labour laws.
Separately, the Rajasthan cabinet also approved amendments to the Boilers’ Act which will make life simpler for 1,200 boiler operators in the state. The amendments will allow renewal of licences through recognized agencies and certification by outside bodies, ending the so called “inspector raj.”
States such as Gujarat had moved to a simpler regime during Narendra Modi’s term as chief minister. Soon after Modi moved to the Centre, commerce & industry minister Nirmala Sitharaman had written to states to simplify the rules related to operating boilers by introducing a self-certification scheme. The Act is seen as a “harassment tool” by industry.
India has only 3 lakh apprentices while Germany has 3 million, Japan 10 million and China 10 million. Queensland, a small state in Australia has 25,000 employers engaging apprentices while India has 25,000 employers. Learning-by-doing and learning-while-earning is Germany’s secret to their manufacturing prowess and apprentices are key to building skills, industry experts say.
“This is an important follow up to the labour reforms because it focusses on skill development,” said Rituparna Chakrabarty, senior vice president at staffing firm Teamleas.
“The current act has written in 1961 makes it mandatory for every employer to have apprentices at the cost of the CEO going to jail – either we should have 5000 CEOs in Jail or 10 million apprentices – but we have neither,” she said.
Experts said the Apprentices Act of 1961 was written for a very different India and has scared away employers because it requires an employer to seek a license for every apprentice, has imprisonment provisions for not engaging with the Act, and micro-specifies location, duration, trades and other stringent requirements
Industry players said apprenticeship reform is a well know priority and it was the 20th point in Indira Gandhi’s 20 point program in 1975.
A panel under the Prime Ministers Skill Council in the UPA government had submitted a report with 14 recommendations in 2009 to revamp the Act but nothing moved despite the report being accepted.