Labour management in Haryana is in the eye of a storm after clashes between workers and the management at Maruti Suzuki India’s plant at Manesar on July 18 left one dead and about a hundred injured. The incident brought to the fore concern on contract labour and the failure of government agencies to resolve industrial disputes before these led to labour unrest. Haryana Industries Minister Randeep Singh Surjewala, in an interview with Komal Amit Gera, talks about the need to amend archaic labour laws and the initiatives planned by the state government to address labour woes. Edited excerpts:
Discrimination between regular and contract labourers was the primary factor behind the resentment of labourers at Maruti’s Manesar plant. What steps is the state government taking to address this issue?
Labour laws in the country definitely need to be revisited, especially in light of the evolutionary changes in the industry, its types, processes and problems. There is a need to amend the archaic labour laws to address the management-labour conflict.
In its second term, the United Progressive Alliance government has already constituted the Chaturvedi committee to look into the simplification and cohesion of about 43 national labour laws. It is about time we take up a new model of labour laws, one in which a bipartite institutional mechanism between labourers and the management, as partners in industrial progress, becomes the norm. The state should become a facilitator and a friend, rather than an arbiter. For this, we need to evolve national consensus that cuts across ideological lines.
What steps is the Haryana government taking to improve industrial relations in the state?
Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda has held discussions with all stakeholders to strengthen the management-employee coordination mechanism. The state government’s reconciliation officials have been instructed to play a more proactive role. Better vigil is required to maintain industrial peace and suitable measures are being considered for this.
The state government has been committed to the welfare of farmers. However, repeated incidents of labour unrest show the welfare of industrial workers has taken a back seat.
Haryana’s commitment to the farming community is well known. Our land acquisition and resettlement & rehabilitation policies are the best in Asia. These are the foundation of the discussions on framing a new Land Acquisition Bill. With the addition of the land pooling policy, farmers would now be partners in the development process.
On the incident in Maruti’s Manesar plant, we have assured Maruti’s management and other industrialists in the area that acts of criminality, assault or arson would be severally punished. We, however, stand by our commitment to the welfare of the ordinary worker — the key driver of industrial growth, peace and prosperity in the state. That cannot be compromised.
Minimum wages in Haryana are the highest, about 60 per cent higher than in some states.
The Haryana State Infrastructure and Industrial Development Corporation is developing labour colonies. Under these, subsidised housing would be offered to industries for workers. In the first phase, 30,000 houses are being constructed.
Major industrial bodies have condemned the incident.
This incident is indeed unacceptable. The government and a special investigation team in the state are committed to ensuring a speedy trial and exemplary punishment to those found guilty. We have assured Maruti’s management that the probe would be concluded before the statutory period of 90 days. Industries account for about half of Haryana’s gross state domestic product. We want to have impeccable industrial climate and would leave no stone unturned in ensuring industrial peace in the state.
How would you ensure this?
We would go the extra mile to create an interface between labourers and managements. Under the Contract Labour Management Act, the Constitution of India provides legitimate grounds for hiring contractual labour; the state cannot do much on this front. But we would ensure labourers hired on a contract basis work in a congenial environment and dignity of labour is restored.