For many years daily wagers and casual labourers working in various departments and organizations of the Government had been staging dharnas and strikes demanding regularization of their service. The culture of employing daily wagers and casual labourers is part of major developmental plans and projects pursued by the Government. Undertaking the new and big projects invariably asks for increased manpower both skilled as well as unskilled. Under pressures of development, the system of employing daily wagers and casual labourers received boost. However, the Government was unable to lay down and implement a uniform code for either employing daily wagers or the casual labourers. It became something like free for all. The ministers, law makers, bureaucrats and even ordinary political class with some clout managed to get their people inducted into one or the other category of service under the broad pretext of providing employment to the unemployed youth or the necessity of running the projects where more and fresh manpower was necessary. This paved the way for clandestine and backdoor entry of favoured youth whose number has swelled thousands or even lakhs.
The Chief Minister tweeted that 60,000 daily wagers and casual labourers would be regularized under a scheme for which a committee probably under the chairmanship of the Finance Secretary will be constituted to lay down the criterion for eligibility to regularisation process. We appreciate Chief Minister’s bold decision of announcing that the services of these people would be regularized. But there are several questions. In the first place nobody is clear about the exact number of the daily wagers and casual labourers. The confusion is owing to the fact that there has neither been single employer nor single department or Government organization in which recruitment was made. Secondly, no wing of the GAD seems to have consolidated the record of all these recruitments whether made clandestinely or openly. If the CM twitted 60,000, some knowledgeable sources believe it is more than one lakh. This is not a small difference. Absence of consolidated record of this huge manpower can be tampered with after the Chief Minister has made the announcement. The important question that arises pertains to the number of employees in these two categories region wise. If their number is sixty thousand as indicated by the Chief Minister or 1, 00,501, as revealed by a Chief Secretary headed Committee, the people would like to know the breakup showing their numerical strength in each region namely Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. There has to be numerical justification and the criterion of fixing the numbers has to be worked out. In other words a rationale must be followed based on justice and equality.
Then there is the question of laying down the criteria for regularization of these workers. These people have been employed at different times, in different departments for different purposes. Some of them are the skilled persons while others are not. Even working for a long time at one particular manual labour a person with some intelligence is supposed to have picked up the tricks of the trade and become a skilled labour. After all it is the practice that makes a man perfect. Those with long years of practice cannot be equated with raw labourers. Another question that will also come up is that since they are not entitled to pension under new rules of the Government, but how is their period of service rendered to be counted towards mutual provident fund. Is there any clause in financial code that gives them the right to claim the benefit of services rendered. This question has to examined in the broad spectrum of labour laws. And lastly, there is also the question of fixation of salary and other emoluments. We know that the Finance Department has the expertise in finding a solution to this question but justice and fairness should not be lost sight of while fixing their salary.
We hail the decision of the Government, which we presume will also be applicable to the autonomous organizations in the State. Before concluding, we expect the entire labour force to which the Government’s decision is applicable to change the mindset of repeatedly going on strikes to force the Government to redress their grievances. They have to realize that they owe duty to the society and must perform it honestly. The habit of causing inconvenience to the public has to be given up once for all.