According to the CAG report 2019, it was observed that no mechanisms to ensure employment of locals in industries were implemented by the Commerce and Industries Department (C&ID) even though they had stated in November 2018, that action has been initiated by discussing the local employment issues with the heads of the industrial units along with the Labour Department.
An unemployment survey conducted by the Ministry of Labour, Government of India, in the year 2015-16, showed that out of a 1000 people, only 181 people are employed. No skill entrepreneurship development programs for human resource development has been presented by the C&ID, which could equip people with necessary skills for jobs in newly established industrial units and expenditure of the same is supposed to be borne by the industrial units themselves.
Manpower data from 29 industries showed that out of 6401 employees, only 2748 (48 per cent) were Sikkimese locals, with 610 skilled workers and 2138 non-skilled workers. The rest of the 3653 employees (57 per cent) were non-local, with 1958 skilled and 1695 non-skilled workers.
In fact, the CAG report mentions that in October 2018, the plant heads of five pharma companies set up a committee coordination with the Labour Department to develop plans for capacity building, through the Institute of Chartered Financial Analysts of India (ICFAI) university to skill the state’s youth for employability in the state’s industries.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed between the C&ID and the industries in the state have provisions that incorporate local employment and make it a priority to reserve posts for bona fide residents of Sikkim. Non-locals are to be appointed only till the local employees are in training.
A similar rule from the Sikkim Government Establishment Rules, 1974 – Rule 4(4) states that non-Sikkimese would only be appointed in government jobs only if eligible Sikkimese aren’t available, can be used to argue cases where non-locals have been granted employment in the public sector. But you may ask, what about the private sector? On May 2018, the erstwhile government attempted to reserve 90 per cent jobs in the private sector for local residents; in short, they wanted Rule 4(4) to be amended to incorporate the private sector too.
It may have been rejected by the President of India, but now there are other ways to secure local employment – startups and local businesses. Even without the help of the Chief Minister’s Startup Scheme, Sikkim has churned out quite a number of new businesses by up and coming entrepreneurs who hope to bring change to the state and society.
On July 2019, Andhra Pradesh passed the law which made it compulsory for up and coming industries to reserve 75 per cent jobs for locals. This decision was made because the management of industries did not keep their word of giving employment to locals. Issues like displacement of the locals and subsequent loss of livelihood caused unrest in the local communities and the state government had to find a solution, which they did.
With Sikkimese youth migrating to other cities, both nationally and internationally looking for jobs, there is a brain drain that occurs. But upon observation, there is also an environment of laid-back attitudes in the state that deter industries from accepting local employees.
“People in Sikkim are hardworking by nature, but creating an office environment counts toward a lot of their involvement – if we don’t have good office culture or offices, how will they work? Startups should have long term perspectives – most have their offices outside. Why I chose to run my operation in Sikkim is so that people here can stop migrating to other cities for work”, says Rewaj Chhetri, the person behind NE Taxi.
90% of his employees are locals, with 80 per cent of them women and most of them hold important managerial responsibilities. He believes that finding employees that resonate with the company values is imperative and beyond that, companies should stop viewing people as resources; good treatment and flexibility is a must.
He started his company with personal funding and built it up steadily with the network he had created while in college. His process of becoming an entrepreneur was also helped because of being active in college, chiefly running the social media of the institution he studied at, where he learnt to gather perspectives, dispose information and understand different perspectives.
Local employment is facilitated by entrepreneurship – not only do they create a new company, organization, service sector but generate jobs. Our society asks too much from the younger generations – more drive, more skills, more exams to clear. Yet, the amount of unemployed people keeps increasing in numbers. But without insight from a few entrepreneurs, we can’t get an idea of how they’re changing the landscape of the state while keeping in mind local recruitment.
From things like building capital to thinking beyond the business itself, into the society the business started from and eventually goes back to, young entrepreneurs have varied experiences which leads to better ideas and more efficient handling of their business.
Karma Sonam Bhutia, creator of KUZU designs funded herself by working on different projects in the state, but expanded her business with the help of CMSS loan, which she cites was a great help to her.
“KUZU is a collaboration between designer, weavers and the artisan. The fabric construction is done in Sikkim with the help of local weavers from different districts, but for garments, since the skill level required is different, I end up outsourcing work to different units in Kolkata and Delhi. We also have been training people in garment making so that in future the entire production can be done locally”, she says.
She had previously worked with Echostream Pvt. Ltd., a design and consultancy firm in Gangtok where she consulted for the Directorate of Handloom and Handicraft (DHH) and Weavers Service Centres in Sikkim. She worked closely with weaver communities on skill upgrading programs at Tingvong, Dzongu. “While working with these communities, I wondered how to make the products reach beyond the state and ensure continuity of weaver groups, which generally seemed to be an ever-shrinking community with many dropping out to pursue other more well-paid jobs.”
At Lakme Fashion Week 2018, she presented a collection of garments which were created by using traditional weaving techniques, since the focus was on sustainable textiles. “All the fabrics were woven and made into garments in Sikkim itself. I had collaborated with weavers from diff units of Directorate of Handloom and Handicraft (DHH) and stitching was done at Apparel Training and Design Centre (ATDC) Sokaythang, Gangtok.”
Startups generate employment and this is also true for one of the most important economies in the world – America. This year, the Congressional Research Service released a report that suggests that startups have an important role to play in the creation of new jobs. Both the private and public sectors need efficient workers
A few days ago, the Chief Minister proposed the idea of letting Self Help Groups (SHG) manufacture and supply school uniforms for the students of government schools, concerned that the current uniforms did not meet required standards. Not only does this initiate economic sustainability but creates jobs for locals – which is the need of the hour. If this project becomes a success, there needs to be more that incorporate skilled local employment.
One of the most common phrases we’ve heard when discussions about the disparity between local and non-local employment crops up, is that the youth themselves do not have the aptitude to work. Some want easier jobs but also a variety of benefits that suit their taste – but the same people, when they leave the state and go to cities to work for multinational companies, start at the bottom and usually blend into their job life without many complaints.
The founder of Mitho, the food delivery app famous in Gangtok, Kushan Zulca believes that some applicants are unemployable, even with the required backgrounds because they don’t have the extra technical skills that companies want in the staff. In addition to that, labour intensive jobs like delivery and logistics aren’t favoured, over more relaxed jobs in hotels and restaurants.
In terms of who he employs, he explains that there are two categories in his company. “We have two categories – the first is 100% local employment, and only women. The other side is delivery – 80% of our riders are from outside and why is it like that, is because it is impossible to find local people over here”, says Zulca. “We have advertised everywhere, at least 4 times a month and yet there has been no response. When we advertise in Darjeeling, we get immediately. Sometimes, even if people apply, their friends discourage them from working here.”
The youth populace seems to be pressured to apply for government jobs and eventually want to stick to the schedules provided by these, but there’s only so many who can fill in those posts.
He adds, “We wanted to start grocery delivery, but 80% of my staff left for a government job. Now we want to employ people, but we’d then have to outsource the employees. It takes time to train and learn addresses but the potential is huge.”
The ones who do not get the government jobs are exhausted by the whole ordeal and since the lack of good MNCs or positions that are offered elsewhere look more pleasing than the situation back home, we lose a good amount of talented, spirited people.
“When promising startups come into creation, we don’t have managerial positions. We have to reach certain levels and build that office culture,” says Rewaj Chettri, when asked about why this brain drain occurs. “The young people who work outside Sikkim eventually want to come back home after a certain age. If people don’t support local businesses, we cannot have successful startups.”
With pharma companies in Sikkim being the biggest recruiters, we need to ask ourselves if the issue goes deeper than the surface level “why don’t they hire many locals?” question. If we take a look at a few private companies in Sikkim funded by the Government of Sikkim itself, and query on about who holds the top management positions, we would find out that high-level positions are occupied by non-locals. So, does this mean the Sikkimese populace isn’t fit to be in leadership positions?
The Chief Minister has recently directed the Rural Development Department to find out existing vacancies (both technical and non-technical) in the pharmaceutical companies in the state, to help find jobs for the youth. Dozens of qualified men and women are currently fishing for any job they can find, just to help them get on their feet and out into the world. But with the way that the companies in Sikkim act – skimming over rules and regulations and MOUs they’ve entered into agreement with the government bodies, there is going to be serious consequences in the future.
If not for the few good startups that the younger generation has created, more locals would be unemployed within the state. It becomes our duty to support what is giving people the power to create a livelihood without having to cross great boundaries for it and after all, everything comes back to us. If local businesses help generate employment, our economy gets better and it also cuts down on migration. But what we need to do is be patient in waiting for proposed changes to take place. After all, as the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. We have to learn how not to be disheartened quickly.
Startups need time to grow into fully-fledged businesses that incorporate a large number of people into their system and it takes time. Even reversing the changes in the staff at private companies here cannot happen overnight. The top managerial positions need to change their mindset and respect the resources they’re earning their living from and the people who have allowed them to work without hindrance. It’s a holistic process.
Like Chettri quips, “if a need is not generated then we can’t learn. It takes time. I learnt to be patient and see what’s next.”