Karnataka minister’s demand to put up notice on number of Kannadigas employees draws ire

While the minister asserts that this move aims to prioritise local employment, experts raised concerns about potential consequences.

ByMahesh M Goudar

Published Feb 22, 2024 | 6:31 PMUpdatedFeb 22, 2024 | 6:31 PM

The Vishana Soudha. (Wikimedia Commons)

Karnataka Kannada and Culture Minister Shivaraj Tangadagi’s recent proposal to mandate industries, including MNCs, to display information about Kannadigas working in their companies sparked widespread debate and criticism.

While Tangadagi asserts that this move aims to prioritise local employment, experts and businessmen have raised concerns about its potential consequences.

The minister reiterated the same on Thursday, 22 February.

Among the concerns is the fear that such measures could tarnish Bengaluru’s reputation as the IT capital, impacting its attractiveness to multinational corporations and hindering economic growth.

The proposal has ignited discussions regarding its impact on businesses, law enforcement, and the overall investment climate in the state.

Even though Tangadagi reiterated that the government will bring a law on this, IT and BT Minister Priyank Kharge said that there is no such law or act and it is still under deliberations.

Businessman and philanthropist Mohandas Patil expressed apprehensions about this move by the government and insisted on investing more in developing skills among youths and building premier tech institutes across Karnataka.

Bengaluru is popularly known as the Silicon Valley of India and the IT Capital of India, considering thousands of IT companies being set up in Karnataka.

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Remarks by the minister

Tangadagi had said on Wednesday, 21 February, asserted that the state government is mulling over making it mandatory for all industries to display on notice boards about Kannadigas working in their companies.

Tangadagi told reporters at Vidhana Soudha on Wednesday, “There have been discussions that industries have to put up on their notice boards about Kannadigas working in their respective companies. The discussions have already been held on this matter.”

“We will set up certain rules. A committee has already been formed, and I am heading it. Secretaries of various departments are part of this committee. Even MLAs have given several good suggestions,” added the minister.

He added, “The deliberations regarding which all companies have to comply with this new law is underway.”

“What has to be done for the MNCs and industries that are in Karnataka will be decided after detailed deliberations on this regard,” Tangadagi said.

He reiterated the same on Thursday as well. He said that the government would definitely bring a law on this.

Minister Shivaraj Tangadagi told reporters on Thursday, “In the Assembly and council, a detailed debate was held about putting up 60 percent Kannada and the remaining 40 percent in other languages on signboards on Wednesday.”

“They have also approved the Bill. Along with this, I made a statement about the industries and also members have given several suggestions.”

“Irrespective of the industries, they have to display the total number of Kannadigas working in their companies. The intention is to get more prominence to locals and ascertain the total number of Kannadigas working in companies. I will make it a rule,” clarified Tangadagi.

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‘Did not receive any such demands from companies’

After several people including IT experts criticised the ruling Congress government in this regard, Priyank Kharge asserted that the deliberations were still underway and they did not receive any demand from the public as well.

“The suggestions were given to him during the debate on the Karnataka language Act. That was discussed in both Assembly and council,” Priyank Kharge said.

“He has merely stated that all the things will be looked into. There is no Act as of now. There is no demand either from the industry or the people,” he clarified.

“When the issue of putting up 60 percent Kannada on signboards and billboards was discussed, some suggestions came from the members of the council and Assembly. It is not yet a rule. It will be discussed. Why is everybody in such a hurry?” he questioned.

“Ultimately, we are here to ensure more investments come to Karnataka. More employment opportunities are created for Kannadigas and more economic prosperity happens for Karnataka,” he addded.

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Businessman Mohandas Pai expresses concerns

Meanwhile, Manipal Global Education Chairperson Mohandas Pai voiced concerns over the implication of the proposed Act, highlighting recent incidents of vandalism and the perception of law enforcement passivity.

He emphasised the need for a robust law enforcement mechanism and expressed apprehension that such mandates might embolden vigilante groups, exacerbating security concerns.

“This is a very retrograde step and will not hurt Kannadigas. Because MNCs will get scared to come to Karnataka and comply to this,” Pai told South First.

Recalling the Kannada activists damaging several shops, Pai pointed out: “In the last six months, there have been many incidents of mobs going around and destroying signboards and abusing the public.”

“They also went and smashed some office signboards. Police were mute spectators. They were arrested only after the public compelled the authorities to do so. People are very scared whether law and order will be enforced properly by the government,” Pai said.

He further said: “When these incidents occur, police should protect instead of being a mute spectator. Obliviously, the politicians might have told them not to do anything.”

“Now, if you ask MNCs to put up information on the notice board, the same mobs would demand to see the notice board. They will act as vigilante groups. Who is going to protect the people? They will do violence because that is what they do. The government will fail to ensure there is no violence,” Pai pointed out at the consequences MNCs might face.

“Nobody discriminates Kannadigas in the matter of jobs. All the MNCs and IT companies hire people based on the test and some criteria such as interviews. They don’t hire looking at one’s face,” he added.

Expressing disappointment in the state government, Pai said: “We have huge traffic in Bengaluru. They promised to address or find a solution in 100 days. We have not yet seen it. Our metro project is running three years behind.”

“We have been losing out and the government does not understand it. Last year, Hyderabad hired more people in the technology sector than Bengaluru. They built more offices than Bengaluru, which is for the first time in the last 30 years,” added Pai.

He further said: “If we talk about the government, they will start abusing the people. The government must focus on marketing Bengaluru and Karnataka and incentivising. Tamil Nadu government in its new budget has assured incentives, based on the job’s creation.”

“The government thinks that people would queue up before Vidhana Soudha and knock on their doors saying that they want to come here (to set up companies), They are mistaken. There is a great competition. It is retrograde,” added Pai.

“What they must do is put more money on skill development and set up 10 top engineering colleges, long term plans, put more money on higher education, especially in North Karnataka. So that, deserving and skilled candidates get more jobs,” Pai insisted.