Bengal leash on private placement firms

KOLKATA: The Bengal government is drafting a law to rein in mushrooming private placement agencies. It not only proposes to set up an authority to monitor these agencies, it also seeks to bring under legal ambit the people they em-ploy and their job modalities.

The draft West Bengal Private Placement Agencies (Regulation) Act, 2017 will also put the lens on agencies dealing in domestic helps, nurses and drivers. These agencies often duck the Rs 230-250 average pay for an eight-hour-shift for domestic maids and nurses and Rs 250-300 for six-hour shifts for drivers.

The draft proposes for the creation of a controlling authority with no one less than the deputy labour commissioner at the helm and BDOs and district child protection officers as inspectors. For a beginning, the draft clearly states that no private agency can operate unless it holds a registration. An applicant has to clearly state the contact details, names of all the constituent members, number of persons employed with the agency complete with their names, age and addresses. It is now imperative that the private agency owner has to share details of the employers, the job conditions, salaries fixed for each person and even mode of leave.

A significant portion of the proposed bill dwells on conditions of leave, a first for the unorganized sector and details of commissions received from the employers by the agency on each individual agency. The No-objection certificate in this matter will be issued by local police after necessary background check. The registration certificate will remain valid for a period of three years. In case of non-compliance, the accused can be subjected up to seven years in prison and a fine extending up to Rs 1 lakh.

The draft also talks of length of the functions and duties of these agencies. Each agency has to inform authority of any new employee within seven days. The registration has to cited in any form of written communication. Each agency shall maintain both physical and electronic register of all its clients, employees and any middleman who might be involved. Every agency shall have to also ensure the employer has access to his/her family member.

Sharmila Chatterjee, director, CARE, one of Bengal’s biggest providers of ayahs for elderly and maids maintained that it was a step in the right direction stating that insisting on basis details like an Aadhar card or asking for income tax declarations and trade licences will usher in a huge amount of transparency.

Hiranmoy Mahato, owner of Catalyst Consultancy services welcomed the government move. “It is the unethical ones who need to worry. There are several fly-by-night ones who die normal deaths. The ethical ones do not have anything to worry,” said Mahato.

Several NGOs welcomed the government initiative. They however want to wait till June 8 – the day all the suggestions are to get compiled – before they decide to react on the bill.

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