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Karnataka's Locals Push Draws Flak

By Ayushman Baruah, Aneeka Chatterjee
March 01, 2024 12:20 IST
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'Such steps would be a barrier and something people do not want.'

IMAGE: A Karnataka Rakshana Vedike member vandalises a signboard of a business establishment during a protest in Bengaluru to minimalise the usage of English and promote Kannada in banners and on signboards. Photograph: ANI Photo

The Karnataka government's decision to request multinational companies in the state to disclose the number of Kannadigas employed there has faced criticism from industry veterans who prioritise meritocracy over politics.

"This move to compel companies to hire more locals is not advisable. Instead, the government should promote and incentivise companies to generate more high-end jobs with locals. The information technology industry is global, and such policies will not benefit the sector," said Venkatraman Balakrishnan, chairman of Exfinity Venture Partners and former Infosys board member.

"The recent statement by a minister from Karnataka, proposing that MNCs display the number of Kannadigas employed on a notice board, is a misguided move," said T V Mohandas Pai, chairman of Aarin Capital Partners and former Infosys board member.

"If the Karnataka government is genuinely interested in providing greater employment opportunities for Kannadigas, it would be better to invest more in higher education and skill development, particularly for those from North Karnataka, where high-quality educational institutions are scarce," Pai added.

No industry in Bengaluru discriminates against anyone in hiring, Pai stated.

"IT companies and MNCs in Karnataka hire based on objective tests and interviews. The government should keep in mind that there is no queue of people knocking on doors to set up offices in the state," Pai said.

"Every state is competing, and every state is trying to attract MNCs to create jobs. Such steps would be a barrier and something people do not want," he added.

Another C-suite level executive of a Bengaluru-based MNC concurred with the view that employment should be based on merit and not on language.

"Karnataka's entire growth story so far has been built on the premise of providing equal opportunities to all, which is crucial to nurturing innovation within the companies and the state," the executive said.

Karnataka is home to over 5,500 IT-IT-enabled services companies and nearly 750 MNCs contributing to over $58 billion in exports, providing direct employment to over 1.2 million professionals and creating over 3.1 million indirect jobs, according to the Karnataka Economic Survey 2022-2-23.

Commenting on the issue, Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder of TeamLease, said, "We keep seeing these spurts of unreasonable protectionist and populist moves at different points in various states. Any state economy not based on meritocracy cannot improve its gross domestic product or the per capita earnings of individuals. However, that is completely ignored."

After the government tabled the Kannada Language Comprehensive Development (Amendment) Bill in the legislative council, Karnataka's Minister of Kannada and Culture Shivaraj Tangadagi said MNCs must display the number of Kannadigas employed on notice boards on their campuses.

'We are contemplating making information on Kannadigas employed at industries and MNCs public. It is under discussion, and rules will be framed,' the minister said.

With the Lok Sabha polls around the corner, a dispute over language in Karnataka has been flaring up over the past few months.

Pro-Kannada activists have been protesting and blackening signboards of outlets with their names in English after the civic body Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike issued a notification directing businesses that 60 per cent of their signboards must be in Kannada.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/

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Ayushman Baruah, Aneeka Chatterjee
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