The biggest hue and cry after demonetisation from the opposition was concerning the loss of jobs in the small scale and medium industries. Media echoed this rhetoric as it had to portray the move in bad light. Yet, one major indication that the reality on ground was quite the opposite was the fact that the BJP continued winning elections after the noteban. The second evidence comes now.
Labour unions in Pune have ridiculed the talk of large-scale losses as an ill-effect of demonetisation. Instead, they say that a benefit of the move was that it helped in elimination of middlemen.
Dilip Pawar, working president of the Shramik Ekta Mahasangh, an umbrella organisation of labour unions in the district, claimed that note ban has had no lingering effect on the labour sector. “During the initial phases, all of us had gone through the same set of problems, like delayed payments, but now things have settled down to quite an extent,” he said.
He also says that the industrial sector of the city saw no job losses and that most units were running to full capacity, and in double shifts. Ravindra Deshpande, general secretary of the RSS-backed labour union Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, reiterated the same sentiment saying that there had been no permanent job losses in the sector. There also weren’t any instances of lockouts or closure of establishments post reported.
Negativities aside, demonetisation is instead said to have benefitted the labour. After the move, many companies were forced to take the banking route to pay their labourers, including those on contract. The unions claimed that this had stopped the ‘fleecing of labourers on contract, or the process of middlemen taking a cut from the salaries of labourers’.
“Earlier, the labourer used to get about Rs 7,000 out of his promised salary of Rs 10,000, as the middleman used to pocket the rest. Since companies have started paying labourers through the banking channel, this practice has stopped,” said Pawar.
Labour unions have initiated opening of bank accounts of labourers. The Shramik Ekta Mahasangh has helped employees in about 50 companies open accounts while the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh has helped open about 10,000 to 15,000 new accounts.
It would be myopic to think that only the Pune labour sector benefited from demonetisation or that the story of no job losses is restricted to the city. Despite the inconveniences, demonetisation holds many long-term benefits.