Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Petty Comrades to Rule Kerala?

Recently the new Minister for Labor in Mr Achuthanandan’s cabinet P K Gurudasan has said that Government will not be implementing “THE KERALA LOADING AND UNLOADING ACT, 2002”. He termed the act as a “BLACK LAW”. This made me write this post.

I was in the first year of Engineering (1994) when we decided to construct one more room to our house. Each day we have to bring in 50 sacks of cement. As soon as the mini lorry arrived a group of about 10 CITU workers came from nowhere. They wanted Rs.1000 to unload the cement from the lorry. My father was ready to givel Rs.300. They came down to Rs.750 and started using abusive language. The so-called leader told “Give us Rs.750, otherwise we will sit here and will make sure no one touches it ”. They thought we would finally oblige to their threads. Another chotta (small) leader shouted at my father “If you keep us like that finally you may have to unload it”. My father asked them is it ok that I can unload. They thought we can never do it and agreed. My father and myself unloaded it in about 45 minutes.

If you are a Malayali or if you have stayed in Kerala for a period of time you will surely have some stories like this to tell - unruly behavior of so called trade union leaders. One more example of highhandedness of head load workers, which I can recollect – My first job as a Civil Engineer was in BSES Kerala Power Ltd during its construction stage in 1998. Some stuff like generator that weighs about 5 to 10 tons will come to the site and you have to unload it using a crane. The head load workers just have to put the hook on the generator and they charge Rs.1000/ton. In addition they have what is called “Nokkukuli”. Can you believe this? How can any industry come to Kerala?

The High Court of Kerala while delivering a verdict in the M. Jnana Prakasam Vs M. Natarajan case in 2001 blasted the trade unionism of head load workers

They were considered as a group of belligerent and quarrelsome group, always charging exorbitant wages even for carrying petty loads. They enforced the wage rates prescribed by themselves by monopolising the right to do loading and unloading work in a particular area. `Engage them or do not engage anybody' was their motto. This monopoly brought in affluence and headload work became a lucrative job and this prompted many to attempt to enter the field under the leadership of rival unions

To put a control on the highhandedness of head load workers the government introduced this act which was termed as “THE KERALA LOADING AND UNLOADING (REGULATION OF WAGES AND RESTRICTION OF UNLAWFUL PRACTICES) ACT, 2002 “. The salient features of the act were

  • The owner of the building has the right to carry out loading and unloading work for domestic purposes by himself or by employing workers of his own choice
  • In notified areas under Section 5 of the Act, the employer has also been given the right to carry out loading and unloading works for non-domestic purposes, either by himself or by employing workers of his own choice. These areas include industrial parks, export processing zones, industrial and commercial zones, tourism project zones and agricultural markets notified by the Government from time to time
  • Wages of the head load workers will be decided by the Government and will be notified from time to time
  • The Act empowers the police to register a case against offending workers either suo moto or on a written complaint made in this behalf by an employer or any person aggrieved.

This act came as a great relief for the common man as he no longer has to battle it out with the unruly head load workers. It is an irony in Kerala that a law which common man has welcomed with both hands was termed as black law by a Minister. May be for communist ministers all laws that don’t allow petty comrades from harassing common man and make money may be a black law. LDF has showed within a fortnight of coming to power that they have “comrades” interest in mind than the interest of common man who voted for them.


photo courtesy "The Hindu"

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

a good article, Brijesh..


May 30, 2006 3:50 AM  
Blogger verbaltorture said...

Hmm... *sigh!*

Like they say 'if you're in God's own country, only God can save you'.

Actually, this makes no difference to me. I had to do some moving of stuff well before the LDF govt took over, and even then none of the CITU workers agreed to any of the c*ap mentioned in the law. They still came, stood there and demanded us (or them) to move the stuff (which we did, much to their embarassment).

But nokkukooli? As in fees to 'look'? Now that's new.
I should proly look for jobs with 'nokkukooli'. Do you know if CITU will employ women just to 'nokkal' the load ? Some extra money never hurts.

May 30, 2006 5:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do you think we could eliminate the high handedness of the koolis? or at least reduce these acts by them? I think it would be really hard to implement them by any govt. Any solutions..

May 30, 2006 7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well written article..I second you.
These CITU/INTUC/BMS plp hangout in junctions and contribute some extent to a typical social scence in Kerala..They patrol the streets some are helpful(depending on plp) but majority are "Vayumnokki" types who want kooli for their vayumnottam.Most of it is spent in drinks though.
One important factor is they keep the RSS at bay in many parts of kerala.RSS is the more poisonous variety of the cadre base parties(Congress cadres (if any) being the most benign)


May 30, 2006 9:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

beautiful article, it does make sense and it tells the truth about the sad situation which has always been prevailing in kerala for deacedes.

its real sad to see that the new anti-peoples government of cpim has taken an another anti-peoples step...

May 30, 2006 11:12 AM  
Blogger AJITH said...

Hmm..didnt read about that statement by Gurudasan..If they are going to remove that law, as u said, God save Kerala

May 30, 2006 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree that these people are miss using their organisation powers to exploiting the people. These problems are also observed in the railway station. they charge very high amount for carrying almost nothing.
having said that i would like to remind you that these are the hard working common people. Brijesh must felt how difficult it was to unload.
they also deserve a better life but may be in a diiferent way.
i would like to draw your attention to other part of the country where in such people are being exploited by people becouse the are not organised. they have no voice and some times they get nothing. the pathetic living condition of these people are some how not commonly obseved in kerala.
god save kerala
if you can spend 10 lakhs to construct a house why can't you pay Rs1000 to these hardworking people .
i have seen people spending a lot of money without any concern for other things, but they react strongly if an auto driver charge rs 2 extra.

May 30, 2006 3:05 PM  
Blogger കേരളഫാർമർ/keralafarmer said...

ബ്രിജേഷ്‌: ബ്രിജേഷിന്‌ അൺലോഡ്‌ ചെയ്യുവാൻ അച്ഛനെ സഹായിക്കാൻ കഴിഞ്ഞു. എനിക്ക്‌ മറ്റൊരു ശിക്ഷയായിരുന്നു. ഒറ്റയ്ക്ക്‌ ഇറക്കണം. ഞാൻ ഒറ്റയ്ക്ക്‌ തന്നെയാണ്‌ എന്റെ വീടുവെയ്ക്കുവാനുള്ള സാധനങ്ങളെല്ലാം ഇറക്കിയത്‌. യഥാർത്ഥ തൊഴിലാളിയ്ക്ക്‌ ന്യായമായ കൂലി കൊടുക്കുന്നതിൽ ആരും തടസം പറയില്ല. രാവിലെ മുതൽ വൈകുന്നേരം വരെ കൂടമടിക്കുന്ന പാറമട തൊഴിലാളിയ്ക്ക്‌ കിട്ടുന്നതിനേക്കാൾ കൂലി ഒരുമണിക്കൂർകൊണ്ട്‌ ഉണ്ടാക്കുന്ന സംഘടിത തൊഴിലാളികളാണ്‌ പ്രശ്നങ്ങൾക്ക്‌ കാരണമാകുന്നത്‌. അക്കാര്യത്തിൽ എല്ലഅ രാഷ്‌ട്രീയ പാർട്ടികളുടെയും കാര്യം ഒരുപോലെ തന്നെയാണ്‌. സ്ഥിരം ജോലിചെയ്യുന്ന അസംഘടിത തൊഴിലാളിക്ക്‌ കിട്ടേണ്ട തൊഴിലവസരങ്ങളാണ്‌ ഇവർ നഷ്ടപ്പെടുത്തുന്നത്‌. ചുരുക്കം ചിലയിടങ്ങളിൽ യൂണിയനുകൾ നല്ലരീതിയിൽ പ്രവർത്തിക്കുന്നുണ്ട്‌. അത്‌ ആയിരത്തിലൊന്നുമാത്രം.

May 30, 2006 3:35 PM  
Blogger Brijesh said...


Verbaltorture- even if we have an act these headload workers wont in most cases follow it. But what I know is in most places things have changed.

Then about “nokkukuli’- to become a head load worker u have to pay “capitation fees’ to the party. In 1998 when I was working in Kochi the capitation fee a “would be head load worker” has to give to the party was 1.5 lakhs. Now it make be in the order of 3 or 4 lakhs. If u can give that and ready to be in waiting list for some time I don’t think u will have a problem. Since u need only “nokku kuli” ur “capitation fees” may be little higher than others. But once u r enrolled u can make money just by “vayinokkal” 

Mayil- The koolis u r talking about in Tamil Nadu and the headload workers I am talking about have no comparison. The headload workers I am talking about the militant work force who always harass people. As I mentioned in the reply to verbal torture it is a very lucrative job in Kerala as can be seen from the fact that u have to donate about 4 lakhs to become a headlaod worker. Basically here we are not talking about koolis whom we see in Tamil Nadu who works hard to feed their children. I am talking about a group of people who are determined to loot the people on the basis of organizational strength.

Prasanth- Yes u r correct. When I was working in power plant in Kochi, every head load worker gets minimum 1000 rs a day. I knew what they do with that money. Go to arrack shop and drink. Then go and play cards to make sure that next day morning they don’t have any money with them. Anyways it is not hard earned money, right?

Ajith-this was a law which was soo helpful to people. Still it is bad to see that government is going to scrap it.

Anon2- If u construct a house for 10 lakhs and if u pay the headlaod workers it will be definitely be at least 5% of the total cost of the house. All people will be ready to give reasonable pay but they ask money which defies all logic. That is what has to be opposed.

Kerala Farmer- Uncle, nice to know that u unloaded all the stuff for the construction of your house. Not only that they charge excess money but they also use abusive language if we tell them anything which they don’t like to hear.

May 30, 2006 8:35 PM  
Blogger Rakesh said...

on a different note... came across this malayalam podcasting site, thought some of you might be interested, no clue how good it is as my knowledge of language is zilch - Malayalam podcasting

June 01, 2006 4:04 AM  
Blogger verbaltorture said...

I got inspired by your political blog - I had to write sthg about the Govt of Kerala. Do check it out. It's not political at all !

June 02, 2006 10:03 AM  
Blogger Brijesh said...

Rakesh- It is very nice. Good to see such stuff online. Also watch Blogswara- effort by bunch of bloggers
verbaltouture- Good to see that my blog is a source of inspiration for u to write a blog

June 02, 2006 3:05 PM  
Blogger rasikan said...

Have you heard of "Kettukooli"? This is much prevalent in Calicut. As soon as they hear somebody unloaded something, they will send a representative to extract "Kettukooli".

June 17, 2006 8:48 AM  
Blogger Brijesh said...

rasikan- 'Kettukooli'Tht is a news to me;

June 17, 2006 6:55 PM  
Blogger kurian said...

It’s not a new experience for any malayalee but I sincerely appreciate the efforts to control this disruptive attitude towards development. I remember some one telling about Kerala that it’s ‘Gods own Land and Devils own People’!!! may be the person had an experience with ‘nokkukooli’.
Kurian Thomas

November 05, 2007 2:46 AM  

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