Lack of sensitivity of some states led to migrant issue: Dharmendra Pradhan

Written by Liz Mathew

Published: May 17, 2020 5:18:38 am

The Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, and Steel, who is on a two-day visit to Chhattisgarh, was talking to reporters on his arrival at the Swami Vivekananda Airport here. (Express file photo by Prem nath Pandey)

The country has been witnessing visuals of hundreds of helpless migrant workers walking to reach their home states. Did the government foresee such a situation?

In this issue, there are three players — the central government, states that send the workers and the states that receive them. The government of India’s job is to make trains available… The issue is with the states. For example, People wanted to leave Delhi from day 1. Has the Delhi government requested for any train so far? Same is with the states that have to receive trains, states like Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, etc. People from there started walking… Kerala government has requested for trains and everyday two trains leave from Ernakulam for Odisha. Gujarat too did. But the states that have to receive people are not receiving them. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have received trains, but not West Bengal, Chhattisgarh or Rajasthan… Lack of sensitivity of some states has created this migrants’ issue…

How are the changes to labour laws in many going to affect labourers?

Labour laws have an important role in creating the right atmosphere for industrial activity… Since it is a subject which is also under state governments’ jurisdiction, it is their prerogative to pursue special dispensations that they would like to make available… Codifying labour laws and simplifying them will add value to the protection available to labour while assuring an environment in which enterprise thrives.

But the Centre has already initiated the process of introducing labour codes. Why should the states then go for such a move that hurt workers’ interests?

I do not think they hurt the workers’ interests. States are now concerned with creating more job opportunities. The whole process is to protect labourers’ interests. Unions have a specific role and they see it in a specific angle. They are right in their own way. But for the states, primary responsibility is to create more jobs, more economic opportunities. It has to be accepted by both the parties. People are unemployed now. Parliament is deliberating on certain labour issues. It’s a quasi subject — respective states have their own laws. States are free to have their own economy model, policy model to attract investment and more investment means more employment. How can it be anti-labourer?… at one point of time, business, entrepreneurship, etc were considered to be sinful words. But in the new era, we all are concerned about how we can create new business models, economic opportunities and jobs.

The steel sector has a number of MSMEs. How do you think this pandemic will impact them?

There is a definite demand contraction due to the pandemic and it is bound to reveal itself in more ways than we expect. The economic space is certainly going to be a changed one, and this depends on the trajectory of the disease, the public health response the world is able to make and compounding factors… The MSME definition, however, would not apply to secondary steel sector players even after the revision.

There is a serious case of unpaid dues for MSMEs. The government announced its payment in October also. The PSUs in the sectors under your ministry also have dues to pay? Is there any plan or time-frame for the payment?

Let me just tell you, there is no crisis. The Finance Minister has announced packages for MSMEs and one is for payment of the dues. But there are certain queries left and they have to be addressed. The government is in the process of clearing them on a fast-track mode. The Finance Minister has told ministries to comply with it as early as possible. With this and the package, MSMEs will get a certain liquidity and the business will be on.

The oil industry is facing a twin assault currently due to the drop in the demand and the price issue in the global market? How badly will it affect India’s projects?

Oil and gas is one of the critical areas of our economy. It’s a matter of immense satisfaction that the sector has risen to the occasion in the time of crisis. Initially, due to restriction on movement of people and material, progress of projects was affected. However, oil and gas companies have responded well and are on the path to normalcy.

The government has promised free LPG cylinders to the poor during the crisis. How many cylinders have been distributed? Has the government fixed a deadline?

The Centre has proposed free refills for Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) consumers for three months — a financial assistance of Rs 13,500 crore. The scheme has been operational since April 1. As on May 14, Rs 8,432 crore have been transferred into the bank accounts of PMUY beneficiaries. PMUY beneficiaries have availed delivery of 613.87 lakh cylinders under Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana.

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