Opinion | Time to simplify India’s archaic labour laws3 min read . Updated: 30 May 2019, 11:00 PM IST
The new government should be bold enough to decentralize governance
Astrong mandate leading to a stable government at the centre has reignited the hopes of many. Industry expects the right set of reforms to be initiated in the first year of the term, leading the country up the growth trajectory on all relevant indices. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, in its last term, had taken the right steps in the direction of technology adoption. Its aim was to simplify archaic laws, bring about transparency and smoothly facilitate the public delivery system.
Digital India should continue to move up the value chain. Digitization has made the functioning of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) and the Employees’ State Insurance Corp. (ESIC) more transparent and people-friendly. The next step will be to let employees have control over their money by allowing them another option. The proposed four labour codes have indeed simplified the hitherto complex, multiple statutes, but we can do well having just one labour code. The new government must show its continued commitment to transparency, cutting red tape and nipping corruption by declaring a deadline for implementing India Stack—which is paperless, presence-less, and cashless.
Given the size of our talent pool, the projected growth of the economy and the urgent need for a skilled, readily employable and productive manpower, it is imperative to enhance the scale of coverage of our apprentices from 1 million to 10 million. The new government must form National Apprenticeship Corp. by merging the Regional Directorate of Skill Development and the Entrepreneurship and Board of Apprenticeship Training to achieve the objective of training the 10 million apprentices and finding jobs through an exclusive job portal. There are bright, needy students who are deprived of the exposure to apprenticeship as the Act excludes distance and online education degrees. A progressive step of the government would be to make the apprenticeship mode education-agnostic. Entrepreneurs want regulatory cholesterol to be removed. Ease of doing business is a sine qua non. We need to introduce a Universal Enterprise Number (UEN) to replace the 25-plus current numbers that enterprises get from multiple government departments. The UEN will help government entities (issuing import licences, building permits, EPFO and ESI) render services.
Make in India should be strengthened to bolster the manufacturing sector as it is capable of creating jobs. The government should not worry about creating all jobs by itself. Instead, it should play the role of a facilitator by easing laws and regulations to remove the regulatory cholesterol from the path of the private sector, leaving it to grow and generate employment. The NDA led by Modi, in its recently concluded term, had promised minimum government, maximum governance. The time is ripe to make it happen. Thirty-three ministries and over 100 departments should be reduced to a more manageable and optimum number as it will cut through the bureaucratic maze and improve delivery of public services in a faster, transparent manner.
The new government should be bold enough to decentralize governance. To create employment and touch the lives of common people, more devolution of power needs to happen. The PM had said that his vision of Nara—national ambition and regional aspiration—will be the guiding force. It would bring the spotlight on the 31 chief ministers who can create greater impact than just one prime minister. Implementation of the Smart City project by empowering mayors and municipal commissioners has shown the way. Extrapolating it to other areas of governance, centre-state partnership will bring inclusive growth to the entire country.
Ever since the Indian economy opened up, we have been making strides in our growth aspirations. One hopes the new government will prioritize its growth agenda and balance the compulsions of a political economy well.
Rituparna Chakraborty is co-founder and executive vice-president of TeamLease Services.