‘We can expect healthy changes to state quota bill’: Dushyant Chautala
Haryana deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala tells Sunetra Choudhury there may be “healthy changes” in Haryana’s 75% domicile quota in private sector jobs. Edited excerpts:
You won the vote of confidence. Was there any point at which you felt doubtful about it?
Not even for a single moment. This was something the Congress just wanted to make an agenda about and disrupt the workings of the assembly for one day. They got their agenda where they didn’t even have the numbers, did not even have something to talk about. We gave them a good answer by showing them a strength of 55 and they didn’t even get one extra vote.
Your party’s legacy has been to represent the farmers. How do you feel about thousands of them sitting at Delhi borders for 100 days now?
There was an agenda that was started when it was an ordinance that MSP will shut down, the mandis will be shut down, farmers’ land will be taken, etc. When the whole movement took place in Punjab, the government there shifted it to Delhi. The farmers are now at three borders and at Haryana border, we have given them amenities such as mobile toilets, electricity; Haryana government employees are all working there. Most of the farmers sitting there don’t know what these three laws will do to agriculture and how they will improve or restrict them. Yes, there need to be amendments and I totally support that; the Prime Minister has spoken on it five times and said he is ready for amendments. There have been 11 meetings between the 40 leaders and three central leaders; agenda were ticked off. Twenty-five points were written and agreed on and sent to these 40 leaders. Today, what I see on why it’s not getting resolved is that there isn’t a single leader. I remember speaking to a Punjab politician and asked him what will happen to this agitation. He said “kakaji, aandolan khare karna aasan hai, khatam karna bahut mushkil hai (It is very easy to start an agitation but to conclude it is tough)”. If there are suggestions from these 40 leaders, I will take it to the PM or the home minister but they aren’t ready. They are saying just repeal these laws. We need reform; we can’t just grow paddy and rice. We have to look at alternative sectors to help agriculture grow. For the first time, we are going to procure barley which no other state does.
But when you have international agencies criticising the handling of the protests and remarks about your allies throttling protests and calling protesters names such as Khalistanis, does that make you feel good about your alliance?
I don’t think the Prime Minister has called them Khalistanis. There are people who may be spokespersons of the party, too, who came out with names. One fact I’ll share with you – Bangladesh used to grow paddy variety which we procured at MSP. This year, they banned that and asked their farmers to grow basmati as it can be exported. They can now come to India and ask for our paddy to feed their people at ₹2,100. They are selling their basmati to the middle-east at ₹3,500. So who’s the smarter agriculturist?
So, you are a great believer in reform but don’t you feel you have let down your core farmer voters? They are now asking for your resignation.
I have spoken on this multiple times. I will ensure that every grain be procured at MSP. Once the procurement is done, we will ensure the money gets to their accounts within 48 hours. This was never done and these are reforms we need to do. For the first time, I saw people going against me, I saw farmers going against me. But now they are happy. They are happy that in 74 years, they have got amount for their produce into their accounts in a very short time.
So you are basically blaming it all on the farmer leaders? You are saying they don’t have legitimacy?
It is an agitation that needs a single face. Can 40 people interview me like you are?
Are you saying some of the farmer leaders want to end protest?
Most of them want to. I will not name anybody. It is just some people trying to create nuisance. The government has power but we don’t want to get into a tussle. Today, there are 50,000 people sitting there. Ask anyone if the government has put any pressure to move back. We want positive talks to continue and life to get back to normal.
Have you lost some of your support base in the agitation?
We have 62% support in the state. Time will come when each and every grain will be procured and then I’ll ask you, have farmers banned me, have they not allowed me?
If we can talk about the 75% quota for locals in Haryana’s private sector. Industry is saying it will completely destroy ease of business.
We will speak to the industry in the future when the rules are framed (just like we did before the law). It is something that states will start thinking about. It is because the GST is now consumption-based and not production-based. We were a producing state and if we have to survive in the future, we have to get more consumption with locals than people who will take the money out of the state. We have 19 universities plus private universities; we have 100s of ITIs and polytechnics; taking all of this into consideration, the skill level in Haryana isn’t weak. But if I talk about this law, we cannot restrict someone who is specialised. For example, a make-up artist – they have a speciality and you cannot fix a pay scale. These people will be exempted from this law. But if you are based in Gurugram and someone serves you water in your office, if someone is coming from outside, then you will have to give them a place to stay, you will have to give them travel allowance; so it will be better for the industry to train local people who don’t have to travel more than 4-8km. That is the idea of this Act. I spoke to people from Maruti, Escorts.
What did they say?
Everybody accepts that it will save them money. Yes, everyone also says that ₹50,000 is a very big pay scale for someone who is starting out but ₹50,000 is not fixed in the bill. We can always sit, discuss and revise that on a timely basis. The Act has just been published and has to come into effect in the coming months. I spoke to DLF, I spoke to Mr Bhargava (of Maruti) again; we will sit.
What change do they want?
Maruti has this specific skill set of engineers that they require and their starting salary is about ₹35,000 to ₹40,000 and in two years, it may cross ₹50,000 also. I have written a letter to FICCI and to CII, all these associations, to give their suggestions on the Act. Whatever they want us to implement, let us come about with a brainstorming session, finalise on the issues and then move forward on implementation of the law.
What’s interesting is that you think that the GST regime has led to this law?
Earlier, producing states were the winners. Today, if I talk about Haryana, Punjab, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, those with bigger production units and smaller population base, they have to find out alternative ways where consumption becomes bigger. We cannot just think about Gurugram which has 10 lakh people or Faridabad of 17 lakh people, we have Fatehabad with 3 lakh people and you cannot look at their tax base and plan the budget of the state.
Of course, many people say that it is a trade-off. You agree to the BJP’s farm laws and they agree to your promise of this quota for law on locals?
It was our common minimum programme. Yes, it was my primary agenda. I was working on it for the last one year. We have cleared it in the assembly and I would have followed it up with the central government also to clear it.
But what about the constitutional right to move and work anywhere?
Please open Article 16. It clearly states that you cannot restrict anybody for a job or position “of the state” not “in the state”. It clearly defines that you cannot restrict anybody for a government job. Maharashtra in the 80s restricted that somebody below the position of support staff, only 80% people can be employed who speak Marathi. There have been rules in Himachal and Uttarakhand, when special tax benefits were announced, it said that 90% should be local employment. Andhra has also done it.
But that’s been challenged. So final word, we can expect changes in the bill?
We can’t expect major changes but we can expect healthy changes which are beneficial both to the state and to the industry.