Government firm’s ‘incompetence’ delays migrant workers and employment surveys, says expert panel leader


New Delhi: A government firm contracted by the Bureau of Labor to carry out field work, collect data and develop software for surveys of migrant workers and employment in the unorganized sector was deemed “unsuitable” for the position by the leader of a panel of experts set up by the Center .

This results in continued delays in the completion of surveysProfessor SP Mukherjee, Professor Emeritus, University of Kolkata, and chair of the expert panel, told ThePrint. The panel was set up to oversee and provide technical advice for pan-India surveys.

The company in question is Broadcast Engineering Consultant India Limited (BECIL). Created in 1995, it is ISO 9001:2008 certification Miniratna public sector enterprise of the Government of India, under the aegis of the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

The Labor Bureau, which is attached to the Union Ministry of Labor and Employment, had in March 2021 signed a service level agreement with BECIL to conduct the pan-India survey on migrant workers and the establishment-based quarterly employment survey. (AQEES). While the first is a one-time survey, the second is to take place quarterly for five years.

BECIL is responsible for developing software for the surveys, carrying out field work, collecting data, tabulating it and preparing reports based on the data. He signed the deal for Rs 50 crore, said a senior Labor Bureau official, who did not wish to be named.

“They (BECIL) have shown incompetence and lack of experience in carrying out these responsibilities,” Professor Mukherjee told ThePrint.

He further stated that initially there was a delay due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but BECIL’s “poor HR practices which led to labor shortages” and “problems techniques in the software” led to schedule slippages.

“The agency has no idea how to proceed for this type of investigation all over India. They lack experience,” another member of the panel of experts told ThePrint on condition of anonymity. .

The survey on migrant workers is ongoing and a report on it is expected to be completed by October. As far as AQEES is concerned, reports for only two quarters (April-June 2021 and July-September 2021) have been published.

A BECIL spokesperson said the surveys were proceeding as planned: “The data for the four quarters (until March 2022) of the AQEES was collected within the deadlines set by the Labor Office. Two sets of quarterly reports have been published. About 80% of the roster for the Migrant Worker Survey is complete and we expect to complete on schedule.

ThePrint has sought comment on the matter from Labor Bureau General Manager IS Negi by phone and email, and the union’s Labor Secretary Sunil Barthwal by email, but has received no response. .

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What are the polls about?

In April 2021, the Center entrusted the Labor Bureau with the task of conducting five major pan-India surveys All-India Survey of Migrant WorkersAll-India Survey of Domestic Workers, All-India Survey of Employment Generated in the Transport Sector, All-India Survey of Employment Generated by Professionals and AQEES.

A senior official from the Ministry of Labor says ThePrint that surveys of the transport sector and professionals were later dropped after the Ministry of Finance failed to sanction the required budget. In total, the Ministry of Finance sanctioned Rs 120 crore for conducting the remaining three investigations, added the official.

The objective of the AQEES is to provide employment estimates for establishments employing 10 workers or more, as well as those employing nine workers or less. This survey will provide “crucial data on the evolution of the employment situation in the selected sectors on a quarterly basis”, according to a press release from the Ministry of Labor published in April 2021.

The AQEES had two components a quarterly employment survey to provide employment estimates for establishments employing 10 or more workers, and an area survey of establishments (AFES) to address the need for well-being at work policy formulation based on Datas. AFES is also led by BECIL.

BECIL was originally supposed to conduct the All-India Domestic Workers Survey as well. However, the Labor Office changed the scope of its work in September 2021 following a review meeting, the head of the office quoted earlier said. says ThePrint.

The surveys were developed and designed by the Labor Office under the technical guidance of the Expert Group, which includes economists, statisticians, civil servants and Labor Office officials. Amitabh Kundu, a former professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), is the co-chair of the panel.

“Behind his commitment”

The issue of BECIL’s “failure” to do its job was also raised by members of the expert group during a meeting held in early March. According to the minutes of the meeting, seen by ThePrint, the president had said: “BECIL certainly did not keep its commitments and showed a lack of organization.”

However, the president also clarified during the meeting that “the engagement of any other agency at this stage can be excluded” to avoid further delaying the completion of the ongoing investigation. But the members of the expert group suggested engaging a new “panel of agencies” for the achievement of AQEES after the end of its fourth quarter.

Department of Labor sources told ThePrint they were considering a proposal to hire another agency, or a panel of agencies, to conduct the quarterly surveys starting in the fifth round. However, no decision has yet been made. they added.

‘Will complete the frame survey within the deadline’

More than 800 people would work on the AFES. “We have 3 to 4 months to complete this investigation. We expect to complete it on schedule,” the BECIL spokesperson quoted earlier said.

The spokesperson added that prior to October 2021 (when the revised contract was signed), the Labor Office launched a soft launch of all investigations with field testing, software testing, training of more than 2,000 people and the finalization of checkpoints.

“This is the first time that an IT project has been undertaken in India, in which end-to-end technology is used, including advanced dashboard, geolocation, artificial intelligence and analytics,” said said the spokesperson.

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

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