The Union labour ministry has sent out fact-finding teams to sites employing Chinese workers to ascertain whether they have proper work permits. Labour secretary Prabhat Chaturvedi spoke to Outlook on the problem of imported workers. Excerpts:
What is the position of the ministry vis-a-vis the import of Chinese unskilled/semi-skilled workers?
We have emphasised that visa issue guidelines should be strictly implemented. The guidelines are, one, anybody who wants to come in for work should have an employment visa; and two, such visas can only be given to highly skilled people working in supervisory or managerial capacities.
But the situation on the ground is different....
Our stand is very clear: no employment visa should be given to imported unskilled/semi-skilled workers. And also no employment visa should be given to any worker in a category for which expertise is available in our country. It has nothing to do with the Chinese. It has to do with foreign labour.
So the import of unskilled/semi-skilled labour is prohibited?
That is what our visa guidelines say. The assumption is that we have unskilled, semi-skilled and skilled manpower available in abundance. But if there is some skill that isn’t available then it’s fine. These could be skills related to nanotechnology or biotechnology etc.
But that would be highly skilled?
If you look at the visa regime of any country, they allow semi-skilled people only where there is a shortage. I know of countries where visas are given to cooks because they don’t have enough cooks. So if there is a skill that is not available in our country, an employment visa can be given. There will be no opposition to that.