By Ankit Sharma, Siddhartha Law College, Dehradun.
The Apprentice Act came into existence on 12th December in 1961 but it was enforced on 3rd March 1962 and also in 1968 with the amendment in the provision of sec 25 the words ”except Jammu and Kashmir” were expunged. The bill has been amended in 1973, 1986, 1997 and 2007. The most recent amendment has been done in 2014 which was proposed on 7th of August, and passed by the Lok Sabha on 14th August and Rajya Sabha passed the bill with a clear majority on 26th of November, 2014. The main reason behind the amendment of the bill was that many unemployed youth were destitute of availing the facilities provided to them through ATS (Apprentice Training Scheme) as compare to the size of economic growth of India has shown in the past few years. And from the point of view of an employer they think that the rules laid down in the Apprentice Act are inflexible for them, one of the major reason according to them for not providing apprenticeship on a large basis was that the penal provision of imprisonment of 6 months and others makes them trepidation of prosecution.
It regulates the programme of training of apprentices in the industry so as to adapt to the programs, span of training etc. as laid down by the Central Apprenticeship Council and for the optimum utilization of the facilities which are available in industry for divulging practices of the training with a view to meet the requirements of skillful manpower for the industries.
Initially the Act visualized training of trade apprentices but then the Act was amended in 1973, which added focus to embrace training of graduate and diploma engineers as ‘Graduate’ and ‘Technician’ Apprentices. The act was further amended in 1986 to bring within its acumen the training of 10+2 vocational stream as ‘Technician (vocational)’ Apprentices.
In further Amendments, it was specified that Apprentices are trainees not labours and hence the provisions of any law with respect to labour shall not apply to them or in relation to such apprentices. It was also mentioned that the trainees will be entitled for stipend and not the salary or wages. In term of payment, the employer shall pay to every apprentices during the period of apprenticeship such stipend at a rate not less than the prescribed minimum rate, or the rate which was being paid by the employer on 1st January, 1970 to the category of apprentices under which such apprentice falls, whichever is higher (subs. by Act 27 of 1973) as may be specified in the contract of apprenticeship and span of the payment of the stipend must be pre-mentioned in the contract.
In 2014, Government again amended the Act to fix the apprenticeship training scheme which amounted to be a failure because of too stiff norms, smaller interest of the private sectors and appallingly low stipends for trainees ranging from Rs. 1060 to Rs. 1620 per month. The rates were not sufficient to meet the basic needs of the trainees, so the youth avoided the scheme. Hence there was a requirement for some lenient norms, as a result of which amendments have been done on 11 major points, and the government had tried to keep it error free, satisfactory and also easily acceptable to the employed as well as the unemployed youth of the country.
- Defining the terms and addition of two new definition of apprenticeship of Optional trade and Portal side.
- The minimum age requirement of apprentice is 14 years usually but the Bill increased the apprenticeship for the designated trades related to hazardous Industrial work to 18 years of age.
- The central government will designate how many apprentice an employer will hold for the number of apprentices under Central Apprentice Council, Which was a major drawback.
Now, there can be multiple employers, to provide apprenticeship either through agency or by coming together by themselves, which is a great boost for the both. The arrangement for the practical training with the employers and the assent of advisor which was necessary earlier has been removed in the new bill. The syllabus of apprentice will be approved by central government through (CAC), with limiting the provision for training in designated trade. Going through an aptitude test conducted by National Council of Vocational Training (NCVT) and will grant a certificate of apprenticeship on passing the test. New bill provides with the option that any authorized authority can provide a certificate of apprenticeship.
The penal provisions regarding imprisonment of the employer has been removed by this amendment. Employers have been provided with the privilege of deciding the holidays, leaves and the hours of work at the time of apprenticeship. This comes under the authority to make rules and regulation by the employer. Now, this power has been given wholly to the employers.
These are the major changes which had been done by the Amendment Bill of 2014.The prospective results after the amendment is seen that, now youth will be more responsive, and they will do apprenticeship. Which will generate more skill workers in the country, as well as the employers and that is going to benefit both of them.
Some think that this amendment has created more favorable conditions for the capitalist class as they can make their own rules and regulation in certain matters. As the absolute power have been given in the hands of employers, how to provide apprentice to people, it can lead to the exploitation of young people and can be hazardous with such kind of liberties provided to employers.
The major point of amendment like including some new trade and abolishment of the imprisonment, these provision has faced a lot of criticism from the opposition and some leaders had went on to an extent to describe the rules as a draconian law for the youth of the country. The government stated in reply that this amendment bill is a revolutionary step in Indian history, as this is going to provide quality skill people to the industries and the country which will led the country at its pinnacle stage of quality skill labour to the country and will meet the growing requirement of skilled people.
The government take on it is simple, if there is a need for change in the law why should we hesitate to change the rules for the betterment of the society. Employment creation is one of the biggest challenges for the country, and the time has come to give the employers some award. So they can help the country not only to generate employment, but also quality of workers who can survive with any kind of competition. As human resource is an asset for the country, not burden for the country.
As per the statistics of the government it was only 4.98% of apprentice of 2 lakhs seats which is to be increased by 24 lakhs after amendments but in order to create suitable environment for both the industries and with protecting the legal and human rights of the labour there must be a transition of regulations as industries ultimate aim is profit maximization.