In a move aimed at Kannadigas residing in the state, the Karnataka cabinet has decided to introduce recommendations made in the Sarojini Mahishi Committee report of 1986, to give 100% reservation for Kannadigas in Group C and D jobs in private establishments.
“The recommendations so far had not received legal backing. Establishments set up in Karnataka, especially those that directly or indirectly benefit from the government through industrial concessions, tax concessions, land tax rebate, energy rebate or industrial policy incentives, will have to give priority to Kannadigas in Group C and D jobs, classified as clerical jobs or workmen, subject to qualification. We are making it a law now,” Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Minister Krishna Byre Gowda told The New Indian Express.
The decision was welcomed by pro-Kannada activists in the state. "When private establishments like factories open in this state, the residents of this state will have given up land and resources for the intention of creating jobs. But is it fair if the jobs created in this state are given to people from elsewhere?" asked Arun Javagal, a member of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike.
He further added that it will help Kannadigas gain employment in unskilled jobs in the state at a time business owners are increasingly preferring migrant workers. "This kind of policy will help because business owners usually prefer to hire migrant workers for lower salaries. Migrant workers in turn are happy with the wages paid and are motivated to work,” he said.
The decision has been taken with an eye on the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and continues in the same vein as the pro-Kannadiga policies drawn up by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government.
However, not everyone is happy with the decision. "This is going to affect us badly as most of our workforce are migrants. There is a supply crisis at this moment and there are not enough people from here who can fill the positions. This is as simple as that. The city itself of Bengaluru is made up of migrants and probably there are more migrants than people who are from here. Is there any industry where there are more local people than migrants? The government should rather see it in a positive light that most of the local people have progressed so well that they are no longer in the blue collar spectrum," said Dheeraj, who runs a restaurant and bar in Bengaluru.
According to the Sarojini Mahishi Committee report, a Kannadiga is not just someone who has lived in the state for 15 years, but who can speak, read, and write Kannada 'reasonably well'.
The move has been in the works for two years since it figured in the 2017-18 state budget. However, after questions were raised by the Advocate General of the Karnataka High Court about whether the rule violates Article 19 of the Constitution, the recommendations were not enforced and jobs for Kannadigas were only made a priority.
This will now be made compulsory for all private companies established in the state after amendments are made to the Karnataka Industrial Employment Standing Orders, Rule 1961. The government has taken the precautionary measure of not calling it reservation.
Applicants who believe that they have been wrongfully denied a job can now write to the Deputy Commissioner (DC) of the district complaining about the company. If the charges are proved, the DC can issue a notice to the company and the government can revoke incentives or facilities given to the company. Information Technology/Biotechnology sector and other sectors that demand technical knowledge will be exempted from this change.
The Sarojini Mahishi report prepared in 1986 recommended job reservations for Kannadigas in government jobs, public sector units and even in the private sector. Several of the 58 recommendations made in the report were implemented by the then state government and over the years, the report has turned into an important tool for local organisations demanding for greater job opportunities for Kannadigas.
According to the central government, Group C jobs includes non-supervisory roles like clerks, stenographers, typists, telephone operators, while Group D jobs includes manual workers like peons, sweepers, and watchmen.
Other recommendations made by the report include a minimum of 80% reservation for Kannadigas in Group B jobs and a minimum of 65% reservations in Group A jobs. The report also recommended that jobs in the private sector should be reserved for Kannadigas except for senior, skilled positions.