Labour under attack
THE last two issues of Frontline with the Cover Stories “The Mega Sale” (October 31) and “Labour under attack” (November 14) are of very special value to students of Indian industrial relations. They very clearly highlight the state of industrial relations and the bleak future in store for the Indian working class in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors as well as those in new-generation sectors such as information technology.
Ever since India’s economy was liberalised in 1991, except for a brief period when the Left had considerable say in the first United Progressive Alliance government, the working class has been at the receiving end of reforms. Often, labour rights have been eroded through certain amendments to important Central labour laws. Of late, the balance of the tripartite structure of industrial relations is tilted greatly in favour of Indian and foreign industrialists, who operate in India with the blessings of the major political parties in power and in the opposition.
The considerable weakening of the Left parties has surely added to the woes of the working class. It is not just Rajasthan that has done away with many labour laws, even Karnataka, the centre of IT and IT-enabled services (ITeS) industries, has scrapped the Standing Orders Act for IT workers. In the name of industrialising and creating a prosperous India, the Central government and various State governments are actually helping the exploitative capitalists by further eroding workers’ rights.
CONTRACT labour pervades every industrial activity in different forms. It was legitimised with the onset of neoliberal policies in the early 1990s. Even in the health and education sectors, the World Bank recommended outsourcing and employing teachers and doctors on contract basis. This has led to a wide gap in the quality of services offered. Underpaid doctors and teachers are encouraged to take to private practice and tuitions, which tells on the quality of services.
LABOUR is cheap and labourers’ lives are cheaper. Reforms should change the quality of life of labourers and their families. Employers, when they close their units, have various options. We see big industrialists escape loan burdens through the corporate debt restructuring route. But employees or labourers have no such route to escape the burden of loans.
S.A. Srinivasa Sarma
OVER the past two decades most employers, including the government, have been hiring contract labour openly. The Narendra Modi government is not offering the labouring class anything new. It pays lip service to welfare of the poor, and its acts are corporate-friendly.
I AM a little amused by your Cover Story. Anyone with his eyes open and brain ticking would have predicted this problem a long time ago. The unbridled expansion in population from Independence to the 1980s with no corresponding increase in literacy has brought us to this sorry state.
But netas wanted more population, each from their own caste, for more votes and licensed udyogpatis wanted cheap labour. What better way than to allow population expansion so that supply exceeds demand, keeping labour cheap?
The technology boom of the 1990s has made labour redundant in many areas. And hence, we now have a curious situation. In this country, those who actually work for a living and pay taxes are outnumbered by those who vote for a living plus those who need those votes for their living.
THE Bharatiya Janata Party’s victory in the Assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana proved to be a “double dhamaka” Deepavali gift for the party (“No smooth sailing” & “Significant win”, November 14). While the NaMo magic made its impact in Haryana, it did not work in Maharashtra as expected, sending the message that the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s ally for 25 years, is a force to reckon with and cannot be written off so easily.
That the Congress fared very badly in both States did not come as a surprise. While Haryana was reeling under unscrupulous land deals, Maharashtra saw an anti-incumbency wave, as people rejected a government that delivered little but was involved in several scams.
THE BJP’s success will not only be a great setback to the Congress but also a big jolt to regional parties. Modi’s dream of a long-term BJP government wiping out the dynastic rule of the Congress is going to be realised. He has established himself as the unequivocal leader of the country now. But the BJP may pay the price for depending on him too much. Over-concentration of power in the hand of one person may lead to dictatorship and authoritarianism.
Bankura, West Bengal
THE photographs from the exhibition “Drawn from light” showing life in 19th and 20th century colonial India (accompanying the articles “Colonial gaze”, October 31, and “Identity narratives” November 14) were scintillating. Even though each photograph is unique, the “Mahamakam Tank, Kumbhkonam, Tanjore” and “The Hairy family of Burma” really stood out. Frontline deserves praise for such a fine feature.
Nobel Peace Prize
LIVING in Swat Valley, the most disturbed area in Pakistan where only the writ of the Taliban runs, Malala Yousufzai’s fight for the right of education for the girl child despite being shot and threatened by fundamentalists is laudable. Similarly, the decades-long struggle of Kailash Satyarthi, who hails from a small town in Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh, for the abolition of child labour, braving all odds and difficulties is commendable. They truly deserve the Nobel Peace Prize (“For globalisation of compassion”, November 14).
THE Peace Prize is a message to India and Pakistan that they should focus more on children instead of wasting their energies on futile border clashes.
We also have to think of the violation of human rights of children of divorced/estranged parents. There should be a global convention for a law on shared parenting, which members of the United Nations should agree upon.
Deendayal M. Lulla
GRAND missions that are endorsed by celebrity brand ambassadors are unlikely to last long.
Unless grass-roots activists are involved in rural programmes, the highly publicised missions such as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan will meet the same fate as other such programmes initiated in the past (“Beneath the hype”, October 31).
I AM in complete agreement with the views expressed in the article “Unfair practice” (October 31). Many more examples can be added to the list of practices mentioned by the author—unnecessary investigations, over-diagnosis and overprescription, kickbacks to medical professionals, setting business targets for doctors, and the influence of the pharma and equipment industries.
Medical education comes at a great cost. Postgraduate seats are purchased for crores of rupees. Successive governments have happily encouraged this practice. Several State governments have eulogised corporate medical care. For many political parties, provision of corporate medical care is one of the election promises.
In such a scenario, regulation and audit of medical practice is impossible and any debate an exercise in futility. It is very difficult to prove unfair practices as medical interventions are not mathematical.
The vast majority of patients cannot even recognise unfair practices. There are instances of doctors too becoming victims of unfair practices. At present, there are no government doctors in this country and we have only two types of doctors: private doctors and government private doctors. The only solution is 100 per cent nationalisation of medical education and 80 per cent nationalisation of medical care. This is possible and sensible.
Araveeti Rama Yogaiah
VINOD RAI is a person about whom there are different opinions (“Vinod Rai’s lapses”, October 17). A.G. Noorani deeply disapproves of him, whereas I hold him in high regard and was among his staunchest defenders when he was in office.
The purpose of this letter is not to enter into a debate with Noorani on this subject but to make a somewhat different though related point.T.N. Seshan was a flamboyant personality who evoked admiration in some and dislike in others. However, as the Chief Election Commissioner, he transformed the Election Commission into a powerful, respected and feared institution.
Vinod Rai is not as flamboyant as Seshan, but as the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), he too was assertive and had fire in the belly. He also transformed an institution beyond recognition. It used to be the despair of the Indian Audit Department that its numerous reports sank into oblivion. It led to anguish over its own ineffectiveness. That situation has changed. Today, that department is widely recognised, respected and feared. It was Vinod Rai who brought about this transformation.Consider the effectiveness of Vinod Rai as the CAG. His reports have played not an exclusive but a major role in dramatic developments: powerful politicians being sent to jail, large numbers of licences and allocations being cancelled by the Supreme Court, etc.
Speaking subject to correction, no other CAG from 1947 onwards has had this kind of impact. Further, in the emergence and building-up of public anger against corruption and malfeasance, the Anna Hazare movement was a very important factor but so were Vinod Rai’s reports.This prompts the reflection that a certain kind of personality—forcefulness, tenacity, fearlessness, fire in the belly —seems to be required for bringing about a dramatic transformation of an institution and to have a major and lasting impact.
Ramaswamy R. Iyer
THE recent innovation introduced by Frontline in its focus and content is most welcome. When some of the “older” periodicals are trying to fall in line with the market trend and changing the format and content to attract the upper-class rich and the busy young, it is comforting to see a magazine devoting several pages to discuss serious issues such as institutions like the Planning Commission being euthanised, the conscious destruction of India’s public sector by an elite private sector by dubious means, and the irreparable damage being done to the social sector in the name of labour reforms.
When mainstream magazines do not devote more than two or three pages to developments such as these, the articles in Frontline can easily be presented as background papers in groups discussing current policy issues.
Extensive book reviews and features such as the two-part series on the “Drawn from light” exhibition of photographs from the last couple of centuries with a befitting narrative by Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (October 31 and November 14) make each issue a “collector’s item”.
I think, only The Hindu Group is giving the discerning Indian reader such luxury at an affordable price.
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