In 2019, a Bill was proposed in Haryana that would enforce a 75% reservation for locals in the state in private sector jobs that pay less than INR 50,000 per month. The Bill has now been passed, threatening the employment and livelihood of thousands and lakhs of individuals in the NCR region who travel to Haryana’s big city Gurgaon, and several smaller districts around to make a living.
However, the bill also contains an exemption clause that can be invoked if suitable local candidates are not available for a job. In such cases, the company will need to inform the Government of having to hire workers from outside the state. According to the bill, a "designated officer" will be appointed as a representative of the Government who will rule on companies invoking the exemption clause citing a lack of suitable candidates. The bill empowers the designated officer to overrule the exemption claim by directing the company concerned to "train local candidates to achieve the desired skill, qualification or proficiency", should the officer choose to do so.
This announcement comes as a shock to several non-local employees who had not expected this Bill to be passed, on simple grounds that it contravenes Article 14 and 19 of the Constitution (equality before the law and the right to practice any profession anywhere in India). While the bill - the Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill - has been passed, it would require the assent of President Ram Nath Kovind before it becomes law.
The Haryana Government said preferences to local candidates will be "socially, economically and environmentally desirable", pointing to the "large number of migrants competing for low-paid jobs" and the subsequent "impact on local infrastructure and housing... and proliferation of slums".
Under the provisions of this bill, companies will have to register details of all employees earning gross monthly wages of less than INR 50,000 per month. The procedure must be carried out within three months of the bill becoming a law, or a fine anywhere between INR 25,000 and INR 1 lakh may be levied.
The 75% reservation had been promised by Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala (also the state's Labour Minister) while campaigning for Assembly elections in October 2019. Mr Chautala and his JJP finished third - behind the BJP and Congress - but stitched together a last-gasp alliance with the former to form the government. He spoke with the media on the ordinance and said it would only be applicable to companies with more than 10 employees. “This will help residents get employment in the state. This kind of law exists in other states and we need to create employment in Haryana," he noted, adding, “We want to create employment in the state so that GST is also generated in the state.”
To claim the benefits of local employment, individuals will have to present domicile certificates under the scheme.
Contrary to the constitutional right to equality to practice any profession from anywhere in the country, while the Bill aims to boost employment for the locals of Haryana, it could put the employment and livelihood of fellow citizens at tremendous risk and is likely to create a greater divide. Migrant jobs have already suffered a huge setback owing to the COVID outbreak. How the Bill impacts their future employability, rests in the decision of President Kovind to make it a law.