Wednesday, April 25, 2018


In a move that will surely not go down well with the private companies in Goa, the government has issued show cause notices to 22 firms for participating in a trade fair in Sawantwadi. The rationale for the notices served by the Department of Labour and Employment, on the instruction of Labour Minister Rohan Khaunte, is that private companies operating in Goa should hire Goans – or at least should give preference to Goans first. In order to tighten the screws on such companies, the government is also mulling a move that would make it mandatory for private companies to obtain NOCs from the Employment Exchange to hire non-Goans, and also link jobs in private sector to the controversial Aadhaar card.

This move comes on the heels of the mining ban in March, which has lead to a sudden loss of employment for several thousands. The government, therefore, needs to demonstrate that they are sincerely attempting to tackle the rising rates of unemployment in Goa. The move appears to be rather cosmetic, especially because Goans are unhappy with the current situation of employment in government and private sectors.

As such, is it wise for the government to promote private employment as a way out? While a government job would provide one with job security and benefits, the same cannot be said of the private sector. Especially those in so-called blue collar jobs are vulnerable to the uncertainties of the global markets and arbitrary changes by the managements. The question, therefore, is whether private companies are offering good working conditions, minimum wages, job security, and benefits such as maternity leave.

The Constitutional obligation of decent work, which also includes decent pay, should bind the private sector as well. Though there are laws that guarantee minimum wages and childcare/maternity benefits (amongst others), violations of these provisions are rarely reported, let alone fixed by the governmental authorities. Persons who work in private companies, especially the young ones who have just joined or are about to join the job market, are misguided by the myth that it is beneficial to work in extremely alienating conditions while earning less as that would bring out their inner potential.

Many state governments in India, such as Goa and Karnataka, deny private companies incentives if they fail to hire the requisite amount of “unskilled” locals. These rules are only confined to hiring of so-called “unskilled” workers in private firms; none in the government will ever think of interfering with recruitment to “skilled” positions. It is clear that the current initiative pushes blue collar Goan workers to settle for bad jobs, while the white collar jobs mostly go to non-Goans. At this point we need to ask why aren’t all the white collar jobs also reserved for Goans? In response, many within the government and private companies would assert that there aren’t enough Goans skilled to take up these jobs; they simply lack the merit. But the truth is that there is (and will be for sometime) a mismatch between the jobs available and Goans who are trained for them. Why does this happen?

The answer is the lack of access to quality and equal education. It is clear that such protectionist moves are aimed at giving jobs to the “unskilled” persons who hail from disadvantaged groups, particularly in terms of educational opportunities. Therefore, it is incumbent on the government that while they try to attract industry and investment it should simultaneously also invest in making Goan schools, colleges, and the lone university as centres of excellence. Tackling unemployment, therefore, is not just about creating jobs, but also reducing social inequalities. The lack of access to equal and quality education at all levels leads to increasing disparities between ‘skilled’ and ‘unskilled’ workers.

The other side of the issues is that Goans prefer employment in the government sector because private companies cannot provide job security. But this desire for government jobs comes with a catch! In the government, jobs are mostly disbursed as largesse by the politician to his constituents; the people on their parts also expect jobs in return for votes. Jobs are often allegedly purchased by way of heavy bribes. The current situation in Goa is one of broken promises: either there are very few temporary posts, as was seen with the 2500 candidates who sought 64 temporary posts. Or the government seems to be not serious in filling permanent vacancies, as about 2500 posts need the attention and approval of the absent and ailing Chief Minister of Goa. Add to this is the fact that Constitutionally-mandated reservations are scuttled in government employment.

How the elected legislators will deal with the issue of unemployment needs to be keenly watched. For now, their feel-good politics do not appear to be promising. While there is an urgent need to tackle rising rates of unemployment, there is also an equally urgent necessity to ensure that this employment contributes to the betterment of the society.

The debate, thus, needs to shift elsewhere. One of the ways in which any change in the unemployment scenario can be achieved is by creating egalitarian conditions for the acquisition of skills/training and the eventual access to the job market – often through well thought out legislation (and not executive orders). Finally, it is critical that the government ensures that rights of the workers are secured in all forms of employment, not just in offices, but also in the industries, fields, and in construction sites.

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 25 April, 2018)

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Goans are constantly bombarded with large-scale infrastructure schemes and this has become routine. If there is a successful protest mounted against the expansion of coal handling in Mormugao/Vasco, then the battle-ground shifts to Mopa, from there it shifts to the mining areas, and currently we are at this juncture where something called “vertical development” is promoted through the controversial Regional Plan 2021 (RP-21). As protests have already begun against the revival of RP-21, it would be useful to check out what exactly the plan seeks to achieve.

One would expect, at the very least, that a master plan that aims to change the face of the Goan landscape would have some basic concepts clear. Since we are talking about the growth of large-scale ‘development’, the draft RP-21 is expected to have a clear idea of what it means by ‘development’. But nowhere in its 270-odd pages is there a clear definition, neither is there any clarity on how this ‘development’ will relate to the existing Goan conditions. This is a serious issue, especially when one thinks about how a loosely-defined idea of ‘development’ is at the heart of the destruction of Goan ecology.

Keeping aside the fact that the RP-21 has been criticized by several activists for procedural lapses that benefit the builder lobby, it appears to be also riddled with contradictions. The future that the draft plan envisions for Goa appears to be divorced from ground realities of what the people of Goa need, in terms of the basic facilities like water, sanitation, and public transportation (to name a few). For instance, the RP-21 envisions a better system of public transport in order to reduce traffic, but at the same time it also envisions new highways so as to handle the projected increase in the movement of goods due to new industries. One could argue that improving public transport and increasing the number of roads are mutually discordant aims. Similarly, one can suggest that the vision of improving agriculture or protecting forests is at odds with that of new highways as it is the fields and forested lands that give way for highways in the Goan context.

The main, and only, real aim of RP-21 is to have rapid economic growth. In this context, RP-21 laments the fact that Goa is experiencing a brain-drain of engineers, and envisions jobs only for persons who have technological expertise. One could point out that the bulk of Goans migrating out of Goa are not all engineers, but those who work in service industries – or so-called blue-collar jobs – around the world. How would the RP-21 protect such Goans from forced migration due to lack of opportunities? It won’t be able to because the type of industries and infrastructure that it hopes to foist onto Goans will be able to only employ a handful of engineers, that too, if they possess the requisite qualifications that the jobs created demand; everyone else still will have to seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Likewise, for the promotion of new information and technology driven industries, the RP-21 talks about the importance of instilling skills in the local people that would make them employable in this sector. However, it also talks about the need for more housing for the in-migrating population that would be employed in these industries. Clearly, these massive industries will require a large workforce from outside, so much so that for every job these industries create for a Goan, the RP-21 envisions that another will be created for a person migrating from outside. Thus, the argument that locals will get jobs if Goa is opened up for the development of large-scale infrastructure and industries is just a red herring. Goa’s population would not be able to supply the required workforce for these industries. If the plans go through, there will be a huge influx of people into Goa and no one knows what the consequences of this drastic demographic increase will be.

Similarly, there are many areas, such as the plans for double-tracking of railways and the construction of marinas for boosting tourism, in which one can observe logical and practical deficiencies in the draft RP-21. Its vision for a future Goa, thus, simply does not match the claims that it makes. Like many other master plans that the government has formulated thus far – whether through its own personnel or through private consultants – the RP-21 is also keenly aware of the problems Goa will face should the kind of development that it envisions become a reality. To that end, the plan advises caution, and checks and balances through governmental regulation and legislation. However, we have known time and again that the requisite laws and regulations are either not put in place or are jettisoned the moment private profit or pelf take centre-stage.

There isn’t much of an option left, but to force the government to abandon such schemes and visions as contained in the draft RP-21 (or even in legislations like the Investment Promotion Act). As Amita Kanekar recently wrote, what we need instead is to support the common folk, whose labour develops and sustain the region. Simultaneously, the authorities need to prepare a plan of how they would facilitate the young people in Goa to acquire various kinds of skills (and not necessarily technical), rather than devoting all their energy in ‘developing’ i.e. profiting from Goa’s land – as Marian Pinheiro suggested. For if we don’t have such a vision for the future, privileging communities and individuals, backed by iron-clad legislation to check irregularities, Goa will witness even more destruction.

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 11 April, 2018)