Underlining skill development and improving employability of labour as his key priorities, newly appointed minister of state (independent charge) for labour Bandaru Dattatreya said that he will especially focus on the unorganised sector workers. In an interview with Surabhi, Dattatreya, who is the country’s fifth labour minister in a span of less than two years also defended the government’s recent slew of labour reforms and said the policies are not anti-labour. Excerpts:-
As the new labour minister, what will be your key focus areas?
The vision of the Prime Minister is very clear and he has given clear guidelines, on which I will base my priorities. My focus will be more to ensure decent working conditions, enhance productivity, development and entrepreneurship and also improve employability in the country through skill development.
Skill development is the thrust area and I am more interested in the unorganised sector such as street vendors and building workers, for whom I had also agitated earlier. For instance, in the housing sector, which is the second largest employer in the country and has 4.3 crore workers, only 8 per cent are skilled.
But we need more carpenters, masons, drivers and plumbers. In turn, skilling will provide job security to these workers.
Will more labour law amendments be tabled in the Winter Session?
I don’t think we will be taking any more Bills to Parliament in this session as they are all in different stages and we are yet to reach a consensus on them. Tripartite meetings are also to take place. I have communicated the same to the parliamentary affairs ministry too.
Do you expect opposition on the Apprentices Amendment Bill in the Rajya Sabha?
The Apprentices (Amendment) Bill, 2014, is in the interest of economic development, particularly in increasing industrial productivity. So I do not anticipate any major problem in its passage in the Rajya Sabha from the Opposition. Everybody is interested in it.
Trade unions have blamed the government of being “anti labour” because of the amendments to Factories Act and Apprentices Act.
The government is not anti-labour. That is why the Prime Minsiter has launched measures such as Shrameva Jayate. Our policies will also be transparent and accountable.We are taking many measures for labour welfare. Our main priority is labour rights and not to suppress any voice. We will encourage trade unionism. We want to have tri-partitie dialogue and reach a consensus. But industry also needs to survive, then only can the worker have a job and prosper.
As the only minister from Telangana in the Union Cabinet, how will you help your newly created state?
I want to create more cordial relations between the Centre and the state as well as between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. My priority will be to ensure that the maximum number of Central schemes and Budget can be allocated to Telangana.