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.

GOD, SAVE COMMON PEOPLE OF "GOD'S OWN COUNTRY" FROM THESE HEADLOAD ROWDIES

photo courtesy "The Hindu"

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Educated Politicians-Can They Ever Make Any Difference?

Government of India decided to implement 27% reservation for OBC students starting June of next year. People in India are divided about the need for such a reservation. I believe that introducing reservations without developing the infrastructure to bring poor to mainstream is never going to succeed. Most of the poor people in this country has no access to basic education and hence the new reservation is going to help only the rich among the backward class. You don’t need a Harvard degree to understand the drawback of this present reservation system.

We have a Prime Minister who is Oxford educated. By glancing at his education and what he has done as Finance Minister of India we all believed he is suppose to know what is right and what is wrong for India. Without any protest he agreed for implementing reservation for OBC. There are many highly educated ministers like
Mani Shankar Aiyer (Cambridge), P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal (Harvard) in the Union Cabinet. Did they speak anything against reservations? Why ? The answer is simple. If Chidambarams or Mani Shankar Aiyers or for that matter any MP speak against reservation, he/she won’t see the Lok Sabha again.

Welcome to the world of Indian politics where ultimate aim is POWER. To achieve power one needs “NUMBERS” on their side and not education. To achieve the “numbers” you need to play DIRTY POLITICS and both educated and less educated politicians have to play the same game for their political survival. UPA government and Arjun Singh are playing the same political game with the mute support of highly educated ministers in the cabinet.

In this context I would like to discuss the importance of Lok Paritran.
Lok Paritran is a political party formed in February 2006 by a group of 6 who graduated from IIT Mumbai and Kanpur. They contested for 8 seats in the recently concluded Tamil Nadu election and made a decent show by coming 3rd in few constituencies.

My question is "Can these educated youth make any difference in politics?" Ultimately the aim of Lok Paritran is to capture power and I am pretty sure that a party if it opposes say freebees or reservations to OBC’s, is never going to come even near to power. Lok Paritran and his leaders have to play almost all the tricks the seasoned politicians like
Laloo Yadav plays if they have to come to power. Anyways Lok Paritran has started showing the world that it is no different from any Indian political party – after 4 months of it forming there is a vertical split in the party with each group accusing other group "non-secular, arrogant, high handed and utterly non-transparent”. Are we not seeing the birth of a true Indian political party here?

CAN EDUCATED PEOPLE MAKE BETTER POLITICIANS IN INDIA?-I DON’T THINK SO

Hey Readers, what do you think? Your comments are most welcome
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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Politicians and Corruption-Need to Change the System

In India politics/politician/corruption/scandals go hand in hand. Every other day we hear stories of corruption in Indian polity. But do we hear about any politician being punished by law and sentenced to death or life imprisonment? The worst thing you may have heard may be a lower court giving “x” number of years imprisonment to a politician and on the same day he gets bail or he gets a stay order from a higher court. We have also seen that if a politician goes to jail, he gets all privileges in the jail, which defeats the very purpose of sending him/her to jail.

See some of the examples. The former Chief Minister of Tamilnadu,
J Jayalalitha was involved in a number of corruption charges during her tenure in 1991-1996. Most of these cases are still pending against her in various courts of law. She was arrested and kept in jail for few days. Even though the final verdict has not come in most of her cases, she finished another term as Chief Minister of Tamilnadu.

Same is the case with Laloo Yadav in
fodder scam. He was punished by a lower court and went to jail for few days. Since he has money power he somehow got the punishment stayed by an upper court and now he is the Union Railway Minister.

Continuing with Laloo Yadav and fodder scam, this scandal was unearthed on 1996 and still after 10 long years final verdict has not yet come. It may take many more years before final verdict in this case comes out. In the mean time, the person who is alleged to have made a criminal offense is ruling the country. Doesn’t sent wrong signal to future politicians-even if you do something wrong and get caught there are so many loopholes in Indian executive and judiciary system that you can easily escape and still enjoy power?

Another thing of concern-Take any political scandal that broke out in India. It will take a minimum of 10 to 15 years for the final verdict (if any) to come out. So if a politician in his 70’s decided to loot the wealth of the country he can be pretty sure that he will die and escape law before any final verdict comes out from courts.
The points I want to make are
  • If a lower court punishes a politician, then he/she should not be allowed to hold any public office or contest any elections till his name is cleared by the higher court. A stay order by a higher court on the rulings of a lower court cannot be considered as an excuse to hold public office.
  • Since we live in an age of political corruption, special courts should be created and cases must be disposed in a timely manner. No case should ever go beyond say 5 years. The verdict of the special court should be final and cannot be appealed in another court.
  • There must be a retirement age for all the politicians.
IT IS TIME TO REFORM JUDICIARY AND EXECUTIVE BRANCHES OF GOVERNMENT TO REDUCE POLITICAL CORRUPTION IN INDIA
Photo courtesy Tribune India
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Reservation and Capitation Fees-Two Sides of the Same Coin?



The Government of India has put forward a proposal to implement 27% reservation in IITs, IIMs and other universities for higher education. Last few days have seen a lot of protests against this by various student organizations especially in Delhi. There are a lot written against this in press and in blogs. Before I proceed further let me make one thing clear-I am against caste based reservation in this present form.

The system of capitation fees in professional colleges is equally bad as cast based reservations. People who are against caste-based reservations argue that it will divide the country further on religious ground. Why do the same people don’t criticize the capitation fee system as it also divides the country based on haves and have-nots.

The NIT’s (formerly REC’s) is one of the most prestigious educational institutions in India. Students have to work really hard in 12th grade to get admission to NIT’s. But few seats are earmarked as Non-Resident Indian (NRI) quota. Even if your rank in the entrance exam is very low you get admission in NIT just because your parents/ancestors have money. If NRI quota can exist in institutions like NIT, then I don’t see anything wrong with the caste based reservation. For me both are the same and both need to be abolished. A computer engineer from NIT in NRI quota or OBC quota doesn’t make any difference, doesn’t make sense?

This makes me remember one incident that happened when I was an engineering student. I studied in N.S.S College of Engineering, Palakkad. I think it was in 93-94; there was a big strike by SFI (student wing of CPI (M)) against self-financing colleges and capitation fees. There were hunger strikes, burning KSRTC buses, throwing stones on government vehicles etc and this was led in our college by the son of the then CPI(M) MLA from Vamanapuram. He got a seat there in management quota by paying capitation and he led the strike against capitation!

A girl in a family I knew in Trivandrum got over 5000 rank in Kerala Medical Entrance exam. Her parents are working in Malaysia and now she is studying in one of the medical colleges in Central Kerala. Her parents gave 25 lakhs as capitation fees. People who get even 800th rank can’t get admission and this girl just because her parents are NRI’s got a medical seat. Isn’t it ridiculous? Won’t this divide the society?

One argument for capitation fees is that cost of higher education is very high, the management needs money to keep the high standards. The money from NRI quota offsets the money needed by the management. I believe this argument is absurd. Another way to do it is to increase the fees and simplify the bank loan procedure so that students who can’t afford to pay tuition can get loans. Anyway one cannot remain jobless after passing out from institutions like NIT and can easily pay that off.


NO MORE “CASTE” BASED OR “MONEY” BASED RESERVATIONS. BOTH DIVIDE THE SOCIETY.
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Saturday, May 06, 2006

MAGIC WAND TO SOLVE UNEMPLOYMENT?

Last week I came across this great idea written by one of the fellow blogger Vinod/Kakka, which made me think about the concept he was talking about

I agree with
Vinod/Kakka that in the job front, Keralites look for security. That is why people with even two degrees are ready to work as peon in government sector. I was thinking, “what if the private sector also gives the same job security and better working environment?”

My concept is: In every service sector there should be about two or three companies through out Kerala - They should recruit people, train them in the job, teach them how to do business with people in a hospitable manner and then employ them.

I think I can explain my concept very clearly with an example. Suppose we have a company by name “Wheels”. It provides lorry and drivers to anyone who needs that. They are one among the three companies of that type in our state and have about 20000 lorries and 25000 employees in its pay roll. A person who needs a lorry to transport some stuff calls a toll free number or he uses the web to reserve the truck. The truck arrives on time and a neatly dressed and ever smiling driver comes out of the lorry (I never had a chance to see such a scene back home). The company pays monthly salary and perks to the driver irrespective of the days he works. If he has more work the company pays him over time also. Now the driver is happy as he has good pay and job security, the customer is happy as he doesn’t have to quarrel with various “unions” to fix the rate and the company is happy that it is making profit.

Same concept can be applied to each and every area including casual laborers. Yes, it is true that we don’t get enough casual laborers anymore. But if a company can come forward and give them decent monthly wage through out the year I am sure more people will take up these jobs.

There are lots of other advantages for this concept. Coming back to the company “Wheels”, say a hauling firm in Middle East needs 200 drivers immediately, then they can contact “Wheels” and they can send their 200 best drivers to Middle East. I am talking about something very similar to that is happening in software industries now – body shopping. If the
guest worker program gets implemented in US (I am sure it will come into effect one day) these drivers can even come to US as the US faces a great shortage of truck drivers.

Having said that, all these I am sure, will be too tough to implement in Kerala. If this concept is implemented fully, politicians won’t have any one to conduct “jatha”, “bandh” or “harthal”. Politicians and political parties thrive exploiting poor, unemployed and underemployed people and I am sure they will do everything to refrain such a concept happening in Kerala.


AM I DREAMING TOO MUCH THESE DAYS?
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