SACKED: Though Sesa Goa employs more than 10,000 truck drivers and at least a hundred barges, not to mention crores of mining equipment, it offers permanent jobs only to 2,500 employees. Even these 2500 employees having told not to come to work. (above) The mines that are now silent; (inset) Sesa Ghor at Patto
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
Goans in the UK get the minimum wage of $10 an hour to sell hamburgers or to wash toilets. Migrants in Goa get `500-Rs 800 per day to do unskilled work and in the paddy fields. Migrants abroad and migrants in Goa are in the same boat
Sesa Goa is the largest mining unit in the state, particularly after the parent company, Vedanta, bought all the mining interest of the Dempos. Vedanta at the peak used to transport and export more than 50 million tonnes. Even after the resumption of mining, in three months Sesa Goa transported and exported more than five million tonnes. The transport and export of ore by Sesa Goa must have involved more than 10,000 trucks and over 100 barges. The number of employees employed in making money for the London-based Agarwals of Vedanta must have been more than 20,000 people. How many people do you think Sesa Goa — which has been in Goa from Liberation — employs on a permanent basis? When mining was suspended again on March 15, 2018, following the Supreme Court order that the second renewals were illegal, Sesa Goa admitted that it employees only 2,000 people on a permanent basis. All the rest were on contract. Which meant that actually, drivers and the employees of the barges got only `8,000 to `10,000 without any benefit. When the mine owners talk about mining-dependents they are not referring to the thousands of workers. They are referring to the owners of trucks and barges who have been hiring migrant labour because Goans will not work for `8,000 a month.
What is true of Sesa Goa is also true of Zuari Agro which is the oldest and the largest company to be set up in Goa. It is the largest manufacturer of fertilizers in Goa. It is also the largest hazard or danger to Goa because it used to transfer various chemicals by tankers which can catch fire. In fact Zuari which originally used to use a deadly poison, arsenic, was ordered to be shut down by the then chief minister Sashikala Kakodkar.
Zuari flourishes because the Central government provides huge subsidies to companies that manufacture fertilisers so that farmers can get them cheap. The Zuari Agro company, owned by Zuaris, which is sitting on the largest amount of land in Goa among the big industries, has been steadily reducing the number of employees. The packing of the fertilizers was in fact shifted to Karwar because they though the cost of contract labour in Goa was too expensive. The company which is considered among the biggest fertilizers of the country is so highly automated that it employees less than 500 people on a permanent basis. Others are employed on contract basis for less than `10,000 without any benefits such as leave, medical facilities etc.
Automation is not taking away jobs only in the US and the UK where robots are running everything from Facebook, Twitter and Google to automobile companies. Automation is here to stay.
Once upon a time the original CIBA company, located at Santa Monica in Corlim, was one of the biggest pesticide factories. The Santa Monica property was among the first large properties belonging to the Santa Monica convent sold by the Goan Church to a private polluting industry. Which is why the company is called the Santa Monica plan.
Following the international takeover of Ciba the company changed hands several times always to foreign companies. There was a strike in one of the foreign companies which had taken over the original Ciba when the father of the present Managing director of Elegant was the General Manager.
When the strike by a Bombay based trade unionist asked for reasonable salaries for the staff, the then foreign company closed down the unit for some time. During the interval the production process was completely automated. The then General Manager of the Company, A Limaye, very proudly invited the media to visit the ultra-modern pesticide unit. There were less than 50 employees as against the thousand or more employees earlier because everything was automatic and the only job the employees had to do was to ensure that the indicators were working.
The number of automobile showrooms in Goa have multiplied over the last few decades showing how wealthy Goa has become. Because of the money mine owners have made, and the relocation of the bold and the beautiful and the rich and the powerful to Goa, there are showrooms for Mercedes, Audi, Volkswagen and of course Harley Davidson motor bikes.
Mercedes has been boasting that the Goa agency has among the highest sales in the country. How much do you think the mechanic and the salesman who sell and service, do maintenance or repair all these cars and bikes are paid? We know of at least one automobile company (owned by the sons of a former head of the department of GMC) which pays its senior mechanic a total salary of `8,000 per month. With deduction of ESI and PF, which may or may not be deposited, it comes to `6,000 as declared. Not surprisingly, the majority, if not all, of their employees are migrants, because only migrants will accept such miserable salaries.
This is true not just of young people who have passed or failed their SSC and HSSC exams. Fortunately Goa is one of the few states where there have been no cases of cheating and leaking so far. Though there are complaints that the SSC and HSSC boards, not to mention CBSC and other fancy boards, give generous grace marks to all their students so that they will not at a disadvantage in national level selections. Which is why we have people getting 100% and 99% marks in science subjects. It is wide spread cheating by the boards who give grace marks not to poor students so that they won’t fail, but to good students, so that instead of 70% they will get 95%. Which is why when it comes to JEE which is the entrance exam for Indian Institute of technology, or NET, Goan students fare so badly. The only jobs that are available for those who pass or fail their SSC or HSSC is as sales men at shops, or as drivers. In fact, for those who cannot get jobs, learning driving — and bribing to get a driving license even if you don’t know how to drive — is the most profitable.
Driving is the most paying job for all those who do not have any qualifications. We know of totally illiterate young people who have not even passed their 5th standard or gone to school at all, who get more then `15,000 per month. Not from Goans, who are very stingy, but from the bold and beautiful and the rich and the powerful who have relocated to Goa and want their driver on duty or on call 24×7. You can get a salary `15,000+ only if you willing to be slave. If you join the taxi mafia as a taxi driver you can make as much as `40,000 a month during the season. But even the taxi owners and drivers may lose their jobs in the next decade when Google introduces driverless automatic cars in the country.
The greatest threat from Facebook, Twitter, Google, and artificial intelligence (AI), which basically means substituting robots for humans, is not the threat to privacy. It is not manipulation of jobs. It is not the rigging of elections. It is just the loss of jobs. Once upon a time there were travel agencies and people employed in travel agencies. Now you don’t need them because you can book your ticket online.
Once upon a time there were restaurants. Now you don’t need a restaurant as the person who wants the food can order it online. You do not need salesmen or even shops to sell or buy any products. They can all be bought or sold online and will be delivered to your doorstep. You do not even have to have drivers soon as there will be automatic cars and buses.
The biggest threat in Goa is jobs without wages. Yes, employers do give wages, but the amounts they give are so pathetic that no Goan wants to work. The only people who are willing to work for the small salaries that employers, particularly Goan employers, offer, are migrants, with few exceptions.
You can buy a fully automatic washing machine for a minimum of `15,000. Most of the processes in the washing machine are automated. Even TVs now come with two main circuit boards that the repairmen replace — not fix — so there are very few highly skilled jobs.
When my washing machine got spoiled I complained to the call centre as directed. A UP bhaiya who had just been employed for a year, and did not know much, came with an IFB uniform, an IFB bag and an IFB card. The back of the card said Inova Contractors. The UP bhaiya told me that he was a contract employee of a company owned by IFB.
The actual mechanics who came later were Goans from Corlim. They assessed the damage to the machine and promised to come to repair on Saturday. They did not turn up even on Monday because apparently the spare parts needed were not available.
Although they are Goan, in desperation they have taken the jobs at a salary of `8,000.
WELL PAID JOBS?
There are well paid jobs only for those who are skilled. There are well paid jobs only for those who undergo specialised training in areas like computer design or web hosting or programming, or for people who specialise in artificial intelligence. There are well paid jobs only for those who have experience.
Even in the medical field, there are only well paid jobs for post graduates in medicine, not for ordinary MBBS doctors even though they have spent four and half years studying. There are no jobs for engineers in Goa unless they are willing to accept `10,000 per month. There are no jobs for pharmacy graduates because most of them are women and there is no provision for working nightshift.
The problem in Goa is not jobs but wages. Goans migrate abroad because even if they are cleaning toilets and washing floors, they are guaranteed a minimum salary of $10 (approximately `650) an hour which means over `1,500 per day, with wages being even higher for jobs requiring hard labour, like construction.
In the same way, Goa is the only state in the country where migrant labour can get `500-800 per day for unskilled jobs — utopia for those coming from poor localities.
Which is why migrants comes to Goa and Goans goes abroad.