Government of Gujarat has claimed often that unemployment rate in the state is quite low. It also cites the Central government's labour bureau report to point out that it has the lowest unemployment rate in the country. But those working in the labour sector in Gujarat since decades have found these statistics, be it by the State or the Union government not to be in sync with the ground reality.
The Gujarat government had organised “Swami Vivekanand Youth Employment Week” (Rozgar Mela) to mark 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekanand earlier this year. Spread over months, around such 489 melas were organised across the state in which the government claims to have provided employment to 65,000 youths. However, analysis of data and on-ground verification of state government claims reveal a contradictory scenario which has inflated employment figures, apprenticeships passed off as jobs and low wages being paid to those employed among various other irregularities.
A detailed RTI application filed by the Jyoti Karmachari Mandal in collaboration with the Documentation and Study Centre for Action was submitted to the offcies of the Chief Minister and Principal Secretary, Gujarat Labour and Employment department, seeking details on 18 counts.
Instead of getting collated data from these authorities, fragmented replies were received from each of the ‘District Employment and Training Department’ across the state. A close scrutiny of the date so received revealed that instead of 65,000 beneficiaries, the number of jobs provided in 23 districts was 51,587 out of which around 30 per cent were apprenticeships, which turns the actual figure to be 40,415. However, the names of just 32,372 were provided under the RTI Act.
Information was sought specifically about the posts, pay packages and the industries in which these jobs were given plus if these jobs would be entitled to benefits under labour laws. No categorical reply about entitlement of benefits was given and the replies mentioned that the information would be best available with the concerned employers. While some departments gave details about the posts employed on and the employees' details, none gave information about the salary and other legal benefits the new joinees will get.
One of the most glaring finding was that instead of giving the “Appointment Letter”, the “Employment Letter” with the Gujarat Government logo but signed by the employing industry was given to the new recruits. The letter mentions only the name and address of the employee, the post and name of the unit, with no details about tenure of employment or pay details. According to the labour law stipulations, such an “Employment Letter” has no legal standing. The worker should have been provided with an “Appointment Letter” instead.
According to the Department of Employment and Training, Rs 1,87,70,000 was budgeted for organising the employment 'melas’ across the state. In the state capital Gandhinagar, as well as Mehsana, the home district of Chief Minister Narendra Modi, while jobs were given, the district authorities neither provided details of the kind of jobs, pay and other benefits nor were the information about those given these jobs was given. Of the 26 districts, eight including Valsad, Patan, Palanpur, Junagadh, Kutch and Himmatnagar failed to provide the information.
In Ahmedabad, 4,370 were recruited but all as apprentice. The Apprentice Act, 1961, under which the employer of certain factories have to recruit certain number of apprentice in their factories, mentions that they are trainees and not workers of the factories and that’s why they are provided with no legal benefits and a minimum stipend of Rs 1,490 for 1st year, Rs 1,700 for 2nd year and Rs 1,970 for the 3rd year. There is also no guarantee that they will be appointed after completion of training or apprenticeship period.
On analysis of the data provided by the Vadodara District Employment and Training Department, it was found that in the district, as many as 6,775 jobs were provided of which 47.8 per cent were apprenticeships. The shocker was the list of beneficiaries. Several instances of replication of beneficiaries were found which raises doubts about actual number of beneficiaries.
Of the 2,700 beneficiaries who got appointed to posts other than apprentice, 752 names were repeated once, twice and even thrice in one case. Of the 74 beneficiaries contacted, we could only talk to 27 of them as in the rest of the cases either the phone numbers did not exist or the ones who received the call said they did not know they were the scheme beneficiary. These 27 affirmed that they had received the “Employment Letter” and not the “Appointment Letter” from the employment 'mela'. Fifteen persons out of 27 affirmed that they had not participated in the employment 'mela' but were employed on their personal efforts/references or company’s direct employment efforts.
Only 12 affirmed that they got the job via the event. Out of the 27, 17 were hired on temporary and 10 on permanent basis. From those who were permanent, only one person got a job from employment 'mela” and the rest were actually in job before the event was held. Seven out of 27 left the employment between three days to eight months due to poor quality of job/harsh working conditions/meagre salary.
Of the total 478 jobs provided as per the list given by the Employment and Training Department, Dahod district, 92.25 per cent were that of trainee and 7.74 per cent of sales executive. The tribal trainees were promised Rs 3,000 monthly stipend and the non-tribals Rs 1,500 p.m. during the period of training. Only 32 of the 72 beneficiaries with listed contact numbers could be contacted. While 31 got the employment letter, only 26 got the jobs from the employment 'mela'.
However, 22 of them left the jobs between two days to 11 months due to unsatisfactory wages/working conditions. Incidentally, most of the 22 who left the work were employed far away from their home towns. There are many who did receive the employment letter but never went for the jobs as the work profile did not meet their expectations.
As many as 2,464 candidates was provided jobs by the Employment and Training Department, Anand district. The list shows that 25.21 per cent graduate/post graduate/MA-B.Ed /PGDCA were appointed as school coordinators. Promised a monthly salary of Rs 4,500-5,000, they received only Rs 3,100-3,500 which is less than minimum wages. While some of them signed a 11-year contract, they were relieved within 10-11 months. We could talk with five of those recruited and all of them felt cheated as the work was not in tandem with their educational qualifications and skills. They said they had not taken up other jobs hoping secure working conditions under government set up but were now disappointed. The other major category of jobs (10.5 per cent) provided in Anand district were of security guard. The detail investigation and analysis of the data is still on and more such glaring realities might come out soon.
Rohit Prajapati is a Vadodra-based social activist, who along with Amrish Brahmbhatt filed the RTI applications to access information on the employment campaign in Gujarat.