Concerns associated with Local Reservation Laws


Synopsis: Enactment of local reservation laws by states would have a negative impact on low-income internal migrants. Laws will also fail to go through the constitutionality test.

Background:

  • There have been numerous instances of subnational nativism in the past:
    • Mulki rules in Nizam-ruled Hyderabad in the late 19th century
    • Anti-South Indian movements in Bombay in the 1960s
    • Sons of the soil movement in Assam
  • However rarely we saw a formal law supporting local reservation as:
    • The politicians used subnational nativism just to woo voters
    • Constitution prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of place of birth.
    • The report of the Working Group on Migration in January 2017 inferred the Supreme Court’s decision in the Charu Khurana v Union of India case, 2014. As per which the restrictions based on residence for the purposes of employment are unconstitutional.
  • Nonetheless, a rise in the enactment of local reservation laws is witnessed in India.
Recent Local Reservation Laws:
  • Andhra Pradesh became the first state to pass such a law in 2019. It reserved 75% private jobs across all categories in industrial units, factories, joint ventures as well as Public-Private Projects.
  • In March 2021, the Haryana government notified its Haryana State Employment of Local Candidates Bill, 2020. It provides for a 75 % job quota for local people in private sector jobs which offer a salary of less than Rs. 50,000 a month.
Problems with Local Reservation Laws:
  • Constitutionality Test: Article 16(2) provides that there cannot be any discrimination on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them.  
    • Further, it curtails the employer’s choice of recruiting labour from anywhere in the country. It is against Article 19(g) that provides the freedom to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade, or business.
  • Flawed Objective: One of the aims is to control interstate migration but census 2011 shows that the majority of migration is intrastate. 
  • Depriving state of cheap labour: Migrants offer better services at cheap prices. Further, the natives are reluctant to engage in some jobs which are taken by migrants. This is evident from Surat’s power loom industry which employs workers from Odisha.
  • Plight of Low-income migrants: He/she already faces the challenge of the uncertain job and portable job security. Now another obstacle of native laws is placed in front of them.
  • Discriminatory Criteria: The income cut-off in Haryana’s law conveys that the rich can move anywhere in India. However, similar opportunities are denied to poorer inter-state migrant workers.
  • Parallel Markets: There is a fear of development of fake local residence certificate markets in order to get jobs within a state.
Way Forward:
  • The law passed by the Andhra Pradesh assembly is already challenged in court. The decision would make it clear whether states can give any local reservation in jobs or not. 
  • Further, the states must realize that a rise in interstate migration will definitely happen. It is evident from the development trajectory of any other country. This was also seen in China during the last 3 decades of its growth.
  • The states shouldn’t indulge in hypocrisy. For instance, the residents of Haryana and Andhra Pradesh have benefited from internal and international migration in the past. But now is restricting migration in their respective states. 

Discouraging protectionism has been the traditional stance of India as evident from the criticism of the Trump administration for enhancing barriers on H1B migrants. The change of Biden administration has brought hope to Indians who want to live the American dream, but local reservation policies at home have certainly discouraged the internal migrants.

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