Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Saturday joined the give-more-jobs-to-the-sons-of-the-soil bandwagon.
Inaugurating Piaggio Vehicles India Limited's manufacturing plant in Baramati, Pawar from a public platform asked the Piaggio management to provide more jobs to the locals from Baramati.
"I am very happy with Piaggio's investments in Baramati. I am happy with everything Piaggio does in India. However, there is one lacuna that needs to be filled," said Pawar pausing for a while before he continued.
"I would request you to give more jobs to the locals (in Baramati)," he said during his address, pointing towards Piaggio Vehicles India Limited's Chairman and Managing Director Ravi Chopra.
Group Chairman and CEO of Piaggio Roberto Colaninno was also present on the dais when Pawar made the request.
This statement, coming from a minister of the United Progressive Alliance, could be now used blatantly by the original votaries of the sons-of-the-soil campaign, the Shiv Sena, and in recent times Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, to justify their stance on the issue of employment to locals first.
Replying to a query by this correspondent whether the Piaggio India management will ponder over Pawar's request, Chopra said, "Majority of our blue collar employees are from in and around Baramati. The white collar employees form a very small part."
He also added that the company recently hired 20 women engineers from an engineering institute in Baramati who will work in the plant here that will produce the iconic Vespa.
"Mr Pawar will be happy to hear that. I will tell him personally about these 20 engineers when I will meet him next," Chopra added.
He said this in reference to Pawar's comment earlier that Piaggio should look at getting more people from Baramati because it has a solid education infrastructure in place that produces very good engineers.
Noted journalist and editor of Divya Marathi Kumar Ketkar, who is also a keen observer of state politics, said that one should not read too much into Pawar's statement.
"Whatever Pawar said from the dais is part of Maharashtra's industrial policy," Ketkar observed.
Ketkar was referring to a government resolution issued originally in 1968 and then re-issued in 1970, 1973, 2005 and 2007 that said 80 per cent jobs in industrial units should be reserved for locals.
Nevertheless, political parties in Maharashtra have made the jobs for sons-of-the-soil a polemical issue, more so on the eve of elections for political gains.
Interestingly, former industries minister Ashok Chavan in 2008 had clarified that the government resolution to reserve 80 per cent jobs to locals in industrial units was just a "directive" and not "mandatory" in nature and hence cannot be enforced.
Incidentally, a few local workers at the Baramati plant told rediff.com that recently job camps were held by Piaggio in Odisha and Uttar Pradesh and both blue collar and white collars workers have been hired from these states.
Image: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar with Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar at the inauguration of the Vespa plant at Baramati | Photograph: Sanjay Sawant/Rediff.com