Labour and liberalisation

Published : Sep 26, 2003 00:00 IST

It is regrettable that the Supreme Court's recent judgment that government employees have no "fundamental, legal, moral, equitable right" to strike work rested on the Tamil Nadu government's contention that the strike was in violation of Rule 22 that prohibited its employees from going on strike ("Labour and liberalisation", September 12).

A workforce, which cannot withdraw its labour at will, is either oppressed or enslaved. A free people have the right to strike and can exercise this right. So the right to strike, and the extent to which people can strike, are fundamental freedoms, which distinguish a participative government or management from an authoritarian one.

Strike is the one and only method or means to improve workers' bargaining strength. The court must review its verdict, as otherwise workers will lose their right to bargain and so become vulnerable to exploitation.

Anshuman AshokGwalior* * *

The Cover Story focussed on the retrogressive observations of the apex court depriving employees of their basic right to strike. True, the obiter dicta were made on an issue that was not a point of discussion before the court, and as the Attorney-General has openly stated, the ruling was "uncalled for" and "beyond comprehension". The decision undermines well-recognised principles of labour jurisprudence. Nevertheless, we shall not be unmindful of the general decline in the standard of work culture and the aggressive and unreasonable agitations that have blocked development. Regrettably, the Cover Story does not advert to that aspect.

V.K. Sathyavan NairKottayam

* * *

The Cover Story on labour issues was one-sided. All the five persons interviewed echoed the same views.

Vinoo RamakrishnanNew Brunswick, U.S.

* * *

Of the 14 photographs accompanying the Cover Story articles, three showed manual labourers, probably daily age workers, two bird's eye views of processions by striking employees, and the remaining those of leaders. Do these convey the upsetting philosophy of the present-day trade union leadership?

No one needs to be told how manual labourers live in a neo-bonded labour regime. Can the striking government employees and their leaders continue to take cover under the miserable existence of these people?

On the other hand, government offices have always been a nightmare for anybody who dared to interact with the employees. Laxity, callousness, redtapism and corruption have been synonymous with these offices. Can government employees become responsive and efficient only "under the threat of impending job losses under the Voluntary Retirement Scheme"? The statement by the writer in "To legalise exploitation", "Those who remain, hanging on to ill-paid and insecure jobs, find their workload increasing significantly," is a misnomer. The fact is that as the flab is reduced, the remaining staff realise, all of a sudden, what eight hours-a-day work really means.

Thomas K. MathaiMysore

Mumbai blasts

The blasts that rocked Zaveri Bazar and the Gateway of India areas of Mumbai on August 25 have not come as a surprise as these were only a continuation of the earlier blasts in retaliation for the Gujarat riots. The prima facie findings of the blasts indicated not only the involvement of SIMI and the Lashkar-e-Toiba but also the emergence of a new group known as the Gujarat Revenge Force. People who commit such despicable acts should understand that Islam in no way sanctions the killing of innocent people and that bombs do not distinguish between Hindus and Muslims, as has been revealed by the names of persons who were killed or injured in the blasts. Moreover, such revenge killings only provide the required ammunition to organisations such as the Shiv Sena and the VHP to inflame communal passions and create a situation wherein the Muslim on the street is viewed with suspicion.

S. BalakrishnanJamshedpur

Caste killings

The article "Killing for `caste honour'" (September 12), sends shivers down the spine, making one hate the prevailing social ethics and culture. The incident in Puthukooraippettai village in Tamil Nadu makes a mockery of democracy, and the government remains a mute spectator.

Kumari RumaReceived on email

Magsaysay Award

Congratulations to J.M. Lyngdoh and Shanta Sinha on winning the Magsaysay Award for government service and community leadership respectively. It is good to see more and more Indians being recognised. This also proves that more work still needs to be done in the fields concerned.

Our country needs people like Lyngdoh, who are known for their probity and rectitude and who can act tough under any circumstance.

Shanta Sinha has rescued 2.41 lakh children from the abyss of child labour and introduced them into mainstream education. This is no mean achievement. One of the main reasons her efforts have borne fruit is that she has challenged the standard explanation that poverty is the main cause of child labour.

Paramdeep SinghKanpur

Capital concerns

I share the sentiments expressed by Bhaskar Ghose ("Capital concerns", September 12) about the State of Delhi. Having been born in Delhi and having observed its development for half a century, I can see what a cesspool it has degenerated into over the years. The main cause of this degeneration is the gargantuan parasite the enormous Central government apparatus has become.

The bloated Central bureaucracy, which is almost wholly made up of people from northwestern and northcentral India, with a sprinkling of people from the rest of the country, sucks in over Rs.25,000 crores annually in wages and perquisites and this fuels the whole consumerist economy of Delhi. This has a cascading effect, attracting the multitudes from the Hindi hinterland and beyond in search of some downward trickle.

Apart from this, there are the huge gangs of middlemen, both commercial and political, who lobby for the loaves and cakes the establishment throws for a consideration. So, the solution does not lie in shifting the capital, but in downsizing the Central government and decentralising. As a first step, the government should restore the retirement age of the bureaucracy to 55 years, abolish all the vacancies resulting therefrom and make education, health, irrigation, industry, civil and criminal justice and personal income-tax purely State subjects. If these are done, Delhi will become a normal city again.

R. RamanathanReceived on email

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