NEW DELHI : Labour inspectors will soon be computer-chosen and randomly assigned to factories in an attempt to check graft, replacing the current system that tied them to specific regions, a practice that bred corruption.

The rules, to be implemented under the new Wage Code, will make it difficult for companies to game the system or bribe labour inspectors of their region for favourable decisions or ignoring violations, two government officials said, seeking anonymity.

The nexus between employers and local labour inspectors has been a menace for labour law enforcement for long.

“Though some believe that the inspection system has been diluted in the Wage Code, in practice, the inspection system has been made wider and the surprise element in inspection system will only go up—making it difficult to game the law," said the first of the two officials cited above.

A second government official said for decades, labour inspectors were feared by companies and out of this fear, they started bribing them to get favourable decisions or spare them multiple inspections under multiple laws and record-keeping.

“Since we are consolidating the more than 30 labour laws into four broad codes, there is no need of fear. The ease of doing business will improve. But at the same time, violation will bring sharper scrutiny. Hence, de-linking inspectors from geographic locations was a necessity. Why should a company know that person ‘X’ is coming to his or her factory? If you are clean in a cleaner system, the factory owners should not worry. We have seen thousands of cases of brazen bribery or hidden under-the-table activity at the labour inspector stage at the district or block level," said the second official.

The final Wage Code has already received presidential assent, and its rules will outline the rules in coming weeks.

The Wage Code is not employer-friendly, said Michael Dias, secretary of the Employers Association-Delhi, an industry federation. “Several changes have been introduced in the inspection regime to be conducted by inspectors-cum-facilitators. It includes web-based randomized, computerized inspection scheme, jurisdiction-free inspections, calling of information electronically for inspection, composition of fines and the like," Dias said, wondering why the government calls an inspector a facilitator when the system has added new layers to it.

“Authorities need to drop the facilitator tag from the clause on inspections while framing rules of the new wage code law," he said.

In a segment on the role of inspectors, the Wage Code says, “Appropriate government may, by notification, appoint inspector-cum-facilitators for the purposes of this Code who shall exercise the powers conferred on them under sub-section (4) throughout the state or such geographical limits assigned in relation to one or more establishments situated in such state or geographical limits or in one or more establishments, irrespective of geographical limits, assigned to him by the appropriate government, as the case may be."

The inspector can search, seize or take copies of such register, record of wages or notices or portions thereof in respect of an offence under the Wage Code and bring to the notice of the appropriate government about the defects or abuses of law, as per the labour ministry documents. The Code, which has merged four labour laws related to wage, has also allowed employees to raise wage-related claims from the current maximum two years to three years.

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