In Conversation with Arvind Kumar, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Labour

Recently a new procedure has been approved by the Labor Minister of Maharashtra for applying for license to run shops 365 days a year in Maharashtra. In the new procedure, the license will be directly granted by the Government and the reference to the Labour Commissioner or Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) may not be required.

The applications for the said license will be entirInterview-1ely processed by the Secretary of Ministry of Labour.  In his view this administrative reform will reduce the time taken to grant license and may be granted within 30-45 days from the date of application. Retailers will get major relief from this reform. STORAI speaks to Arvind Kumar; Principal Secretary, Ministry of Labour.

Q – A glimpse of your profile and role:

A – “I have done my MA in Economics, from Jawaharlal Nehru University’ in 1984. I am a Senior IAS office. This background has given me a greater understanding of the varied factors that affect the economy, from social and consumption factors to politics.

I joined the position of a Principal Secretary of Ministry of Labour on 1st June’ 2013. Before taking up this role I was a member Secretary of Maharashtra Finance Commission, prior to which I was Commissioner of Labour. I also worked in the capacity of IT secretary and have served the Government of India for 7 years.

Q – Was there any role that you enjoyed the most?

A – “I have enjoyed every phase of my journey, starting right from my training days! Moving on to my first role of a HDO where I was an independent officer in the subdivision. Then I grew to become the Deputy Commissioner of Sales Tax, which was a whole new world in itself, and with this post I came to Mumbai. Thus each of the roles I have played, have had their challenges and each of them have been an enjoyable and unique experience. What keeps me motivated all through is the purpose attached to these roles, that of serving our country’s citizens.

Q – As per our understanding, the new procedure to apply for getting 365 days working license in Maharashtra is now shorter; can you explain this? Also tell us how different it is from the old procedure?

A – “The change that has recently been made when it comes to the 365 days working license, stems from the understanding that small process re-engineering undertakings help the Government tremendously. These changes remove the unnecessary procedural formalities and makes for seamless working.

In the old system firstly the Issuing of the application happened at the Mantralaya level, as this aspect rests in the hands of Government which is the component authority. Post which the Mantralaya sends the application to the Commissioner of Labour, who in-turn sends it to the Shop Inspector, which in Mumbai is BMC. Once BMC gives a positive response the Government issues the assumption. This entire procedure took about 6-8 months minimum.

Once being the Commissioner of Labour myself, I knew the time cycle it took, thus after joining this new post I proposed that the procedure be trimmed. So the Government decided that the report from the shop-inspector through the commissioner of Labour will not be essential any more. The Government continues to retain the power to seek a report if required. This is done to ensure that any misuse is avoided.

We have started the process of self-declaration by the merchant establishments. We trust that the merchants will give us the correct information; the information we seek is very basic and will be taken down on a stamp paper so that in case the information provided is fake or faulty we can take necessary legal action and prosecute. While we retain the power to send any application for verification and report, this will not be a normal case, procedurally based on the self-declaration furnished by the establishment the assumption will be granted by the government and while doing so we will try to go by our judgment about the establishment based on the facts submitted by the Government.

In all we seek to balance both the public’s interest and the Government’s requirements.”

Q – On what basis will the License be given?

A – “This is a discretionary power of the Government. The original power of the government is to meet the extra ordinary circumstances. Therefore it cannot be treated as a general rule that you apply for assumption and you get it, because we are required to consider various factors. Some of the important factors include – availability of Police to maintain law & order if stores are open 24x7x365. At 4:00 Am in the morning, who is going to shop and how many shops should be given licenses? How will it affect social health, if people are shopping till 4 in the morning will they be able to work in day time? So we need to ascertain if the demand for the license is genuine. For instance in case of IT companies it is required because they have overseas clients and time differences. Similarly export establishments, 5-star hotels need 24 hours license, but it isn’t the case with every shop & establishment, and in our experience we have also seen that to maximize their profit the employers tend to ignore the interest of the workers.”

Q – In the circular there is a mention about woman & sexual harassment. Please elaborate.

A – “Yes, this is an aspect of prime importance, if the establishment shows no concern for the safety and well being for women employees, they should not expect the Government to give them a 24 hours license. In case of complaints our Labour officers are there, and these days complaints reach the government very fast. Although we cannot fish out and keep track of what is going on in each establishment, we need complaints and these days women are brave and don’t fear reporting. Even third party complaints will do but it is essential we receive them.”

Q – Is it necessary that each and every shop should have this license?

A – “Each shop required a different license as each shop’s location and workers are different and they have the liberty to decide their closing hours and holidays. Thus in the practical sense each shop requires different licenses. And in case one shop has many branches you can club it together, we make the process as simple as possible.”

Q – So with this amendment and change how much time will it now take to avail the license?

A – “The new procedure takes around 30-45 days is what we believe, it can also happen faster.”

Q – Did you face any resistance while introducing this reform?

A – “No! There was no resistance of any kind. Practical problem that we did discuss was the increase in working hours so each and every merchant has promised that they will create extra jobs. Thus proportionately in terms of hours the merchants will manage. The form itself mentions that if you are making people work for extra hours you have to pay for overtime. Also have your workers work in three shifts, ensure they are paid for extra working hours. Thus if these conditions are met labour department would have no objection.”

Q – Any welfare analysis done on creating extra job?

A – “We have not done analysis in this department, but creation of extra jobs naturally leads to the increase in national income. Each extra job created, further creates some more jobs. Creations of extra jobs is a very desirable situation, we all should work towards it.”

Q – Challenges you faced with this change, and how did you overcome it?

A – “The sheer numbers are a huge challenge, Mumbai itself has 45,000 shops, and to absorb this enormous number we don’t have the man power to process the paper work. In case we experience an overwhelming response in terms of applications, we might have to think of setting up a system. Fortunately so far we haven’t received many applications. But with awareness of this change spreading I am sure the response will be a challenge to manage.

Q – How is this going to help Retailers Association of India’s (RAI) members?

A – “I will help them a lot; their sales are bound to go up. Owing to the tight routines people don’t get the time to shop but with extended hours people will surely make the most of it, which in-turn will add to the revenues of your members. So please tell your members to avail this facility.”

“Under the new procedure, it will take around 30-45 days to receive the 365 days permission in Maharashtra,  it can also happen faster” – Arvind Kumar, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Labour
“The 365 days permission will create jobs – merchants have to employ more people to manage stores for the enhanced hours. ”Arvind Kumar, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Labour

 

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Retailers Association of India (RAI) is the unified voice of Indian retailers. RAI is a not for profit organization (registered under section 25 of Companies Act, 1956), works with all the stakeholders for creating the right environment for the growth of the modern retail industry in India. RAI is the body that encourages, develops, facilitates and supports retailers to become modern and adopt best practices that will delight customers. RAI has a three charter aim of Retail Development, Facilitation and Propagation.