Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar sought to calm industry’s nerves after his government’s recent decision to reserve 75 percent jobs in the private sector for locals led to disquiet. Khattar says the quota will apply only in non-technical fields and is confident that the reservation will not drive the industry away.
The chief minister’s first 17 months of the second term have been busy and tough, with the coronavirus outbreak upending the economy and testing the state’s healthcare system. Farmers from some districts of the state have joined their counterparts from Punjab in protesting against the farm laws in a state where agriculture remains the mainstay of the economy.
Khattar, who also holds the finance portfolio and will be presenting the state's budget on March 12, says along with healthcare, agriculture remains a priority and special emphasis will be laid on improving irrigation facilities.
In an interview to Center for Innovation in Public Policy CEO Yatish Rajawat for Moneycontrol, Khattar his government was working on a plan to bring each of the poor families in the annual income bracket of Rs 1 lakh or above. Edited excerpts:
On the one hand, you bring in the Haryana Enterprise Employment Policy-2020 and on the other, you impose 75 percent reservation for locals in private sector jobs. Are you welcoming the industry or are chasing it away from Haryana?
The 75 percent reservation is not going to drive away the industry. We have done it according to the local demand. Our alliance partner had promised this in its election manifesto.
Won’t the 75 percent reservation decision hurt industrial growth and economic development?
I don’t think so. We have many people who enjoy in manipulating unemployment numbers. The situation is not that bad as is being said. We have people who go for central services and in the armed forces. Nowadays, sports have also developed into a popular sector for jobs.
The services sector has emerged as a large employer. For an educated Haryanvi, there have been IT services, BPO services, logistics and then housing. Do you want to give some boost to these areas under the Haryana Enterprise Employment Policy?
We will promote every sector. I was talking about local reservation. The 75 percent reservation in private sector jobs for Haryana locals is only for those with salaries below Rs 50,000 per month. That, too, only for non-technical jobs. This reservation rule is not being implemented on technical jobs.
Won’t labour inspectors harass industrialists?
The self-declaration process is online and it will be accepted as given. Only if there is a complaint against the declaration will the state labour commissioner explore the declaration.
Maruti Suzuki Chairman RC Bhargava has also expressed his frustration with the 75 percent reservation policy and has termed it as insane.
I have talked to Bhargav ji. He has no qualms. Apart from Haryana, seven other states already have this policy. We have already made provisions to save industries from labour inspectors. It is clear that in mega projects, only state-level commissioners can have any say.
The Prime Minister wants to promote “ease of doing business”. He is for easing the processes and bringing transparency in the tax system but when you take steps like reservation, then in a way, you open ways to more interference by labour inspector, excise inspector, fire inspector, police, etc?
Absolutely not. Self-declaration is sufficient in our system. The state-level labour commissioner will interrupt only when someone complains.
How is the economy of Haryana getting back on track after the coronavirus outbreak? What’s your plan?
The pandemic hit us hard, no doubt. Industries shut down and revenue dried up. Haryana registered a revenue loss of Rs. 17,000 crore but the situation is improving gradually. Overall, we will be short of only Rs 5,000 crore from our revenue target for 2020-21.
The Centre has increased the outlay for health services by 140 percent. What are your plans for the health and agriculture sectors?
Every year, we focus on one sector in our budget. Last year, we focussed on education with an increase in outlay by 15 percent. As a result, we have witnessed a decrease in dropout rates at all levels and students are opting for higher education after finishing school.
We will give equal importance to agriculture too. Irrigation is on top of our priority list. We are working on ground-water recharging and using micro-irrigation to ensure that every inch of the fields gets water.
Along with this, my government is also keeping welfare work for poor at the centre of all its schemes and programmes. We are collecting information on the socio-economic conditions of each family in the state to understand the needs of the households and the capabilities of well-off families. The government aims to bring each family in the annual income bracket of Rs 1 lakh or above and we are working on a concrete plan to achieve the goal.
What’s your plan for the capex in the health sector and what will be the direction of the expenditure?
Our honourable Prime Minister has given us a vision of wellness centres. We are dedicated to implementing it. We will focus on how these centres can upgrade people’s lifestyle by inculcating yoga, exercise and ayurveda in daily life. We will take these wellness centres to villages using one-two acres of land.
Yoga and exercise improve people’s wellness but what about healthcare infrastructure?
We are facing shortage of doctors, healthcare staff and para-medics. So, we will focus on it primarily.
You mean there would be new vacancies for doctors?
Overall, we have an acute deficiency of doctors. Even if we start recruitment, there are no doctors. We have increased the capacity of medical colleges in Haryana from 750 in 2014 to 1,700 now. We are still working on increasing the number of medical colleges with a target of producing 2,500 doctors annually.
Likewise, para-medics, nursing and technical staff workforce shall also be increased.
Farmers pose another challenge to your government. What would you be priorities in the budget—healthcare or agriculture?
We have just left behind the worst of COVID-19. It has taught us to keep our healthcare facilities ready for any contingency. But that doesn’t mean we can overlook other sectors like agriculture, health and education.
Are you going to increase the outlay for healthcare from last year’s 4.6 percent?
Of course, we will.
Your agri-expenditure was 12-13 percent last year. Will this be increased up to 20 percent?
We need to change the priorities according to ground realities. Like, in agriculture, productivity is no more a problem. The major challenge before farmers is to market the produce. So, my government is focussing on agri-marketing. We are developing a vegetable and fruit market yard in Gannaur, near Sonepat which is spread over 550 acres.
Will Gannaur market yard outshine Azadpur market yard?
Gannaur will have a bigger market yard than Azadpur. Azadpur market yard is spread in 70 acres and traffic jams and malodour are major problems there. Gannaur, in contrast, will be a modern market yard with cold storage chain and logistic park. It will certainly provide a better option than Azadpur. Farmers from across Haryana, UP, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh benefit from this infrastructure.
How does your government plan to encourage demand in the economy?
There is no problem of demand here. Even in COVID-19 time, our farmers have got Rs 22,000 crore in their hands. We helped poor families by providing them Rs 4,000-6,000 per month. We also facilitated factories for getting loans from banks so that the labourers could be paid their wages. No cut in salaries or pensions ensued for any government staff.
Will MSMEs get special attention in Haryana Enterprise Employment Policy that was notified in January?
We have offered many concessions under our enterprise policy. We have proposed to give subsidies on the basis of location. Five categories A, B, C, D and O have been decided, where category D has maximum concessions and subsidies. Category O is already developed and we are not providing much incentive in these areas.
Tell us about deemed clearance. How can a small industrialist get it?After applying for it online, official checks the documents. The process has to be completed within 45 days and if no objection is registered in the duration, the application will be deemed as accepted.