Opposition leaders were no match to KCR's guile

Opposition leaders were no match to KCR

The strike by the TSRTC workers brings to mind the longest and the most disruptive Mumbai (then Bombay) textile workers strike of 1981-82 led by Datta...

The strike by the TSRTC workers brings to mind the longest and the most disruptive Mumbai (then Bombay) textile workers strike of 1981-82 led by Datta Samant, George Fernandes et el.

This Mumbai strike ended in a fiasco leading to either closure of thousands of textile mills or their shifting to better pastures and putting lakhs of cozy formal sector workers out of job.

Those were the days of left leaning Government. led by none other than the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi who herself was against Datta Samant though he belonged to the INTUC of the Congress and other union leaders as they were trying to upstage the political leadership on the brutal strength of the lakhs of workers of the richest industrial area.

The strike brought few benefits to the workers while causing irreparable loss to the textile sector.

Those days were long gone and the Governments in India and the world, even in the communist blocks, have left leftist policies and preferred growth to equity which is perceived to follow growth and cannot precede it. Now the Right is right.

Post- globalisation and the India's economic reforms, the day of arms-twisting trade union practices have lost their efficacy. Now, sustainability in terms of productivity and profitability is the virtue of survival whether in the private sector or public sector.

Every organisation irrespective of its ownership is tested on the anvil of economic viability. Hundreds of public sector units both at the Centre and in the States have been closed down.

The BJP leaders who supported the RTC strike should not forget that an earlier BJP Government. was the first government in creating a Ministry for Disinvestment leading to unemployment in public sector.

Even now, the present BJP government is pushing through a Labour Bill in the Parliament subsuming 40 plus Labour Acts whose avowed aim is to establish a level playing ground between managements and the labour, an euphemism for restriction of the Unions' right to disrupt the organisations.

The central government has decided to send 70000 BSNL employees on VRS and to raise Rs. 80000 crores through disinvesment only in this financial year. Will not this lead to loss of secure employment? At least, KCR offered to take back the employees if they did not press for unreasonable and impracticable demands.

That the public sector units including the TSRTC have become cash cows of the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats is a well-established fact. Shashi Tharoor, the Congress MP from Kerala, in his book, "India from Midnight to Millennium and Beyond" stated that, before the reforms , the Steel Authority of India paid 2,47,000 workers to produce 6 million tonnes finished steel whereas 10000 employees of a South Korean company produced 14 million tonnes of steel during the same year.

Such were the inefficiencies of the public sector units that kept down the growth though they played pivotal role in the early decades after Independence when the investment capabilities of the private sector were very poor.

The foregoing shows that public sector units will not survive if they do not become profitable like South Korean companies. The same rule also applied to private sector units.

Inability to perceive this reality of the altered labour power and market dynamics and egged on by opposition leaders, the RTC union leaders led the gullible workers into dangerous self-harming strike. It must be understood by the union leaders that even the most powerful governments cannot swim against the globally influenced economic currents and trends.

When, highly qualified staff in teaching and administrative departments could not be regularised, how the labour leaders expected the same for the RTC workers? Fully informed of the realities of the situation, KCR raised the remunerations of the contract staff two to three times and gave 60 per cent hike to RTC workers. Is this not a sterling example of humane administration?

In a private conversation, one regular state government employee remarked that they, the government employees, would not have supported such a strike by their leaders for that long by virtue of their knowledge of the governments and their behaviour of the leaders and would have abandoned it midway. This shows how the uninformed leaders sometime lead their flock astray.

KCR, a voracious reader and a self-made astute politician, not only knows the pulse of the people but also has profound understanding of the economic history. No wonder, amidst the disruptive strike, he could wrest the MLA constituency from the bastion of the Congress party.

His way of handling the strike was libelously described by the opposition as arrogance but in fact his posture was just parentally obstinate to wean the children from bad company. Some newspapers and TV channels joined the chorus of such libel against KCR. Would these media organisations concede unreasonable demands of their staff?

As ever, there is nothing to write home about the role of the opposition leaders as they made one more attempt to fish in troubled waters which came a cropper one more time. It has to be conceded that the RTC workers work hard. They deserved the hike they were given. Their earnings being in formal sector are better than equally skilled workers in informal sector. The workers were definitely not to blame for the inefficiencies that dog the RTC. There are many leakages in the management of the depots and their humongous assets.

What RTC lacks is an informed union leadership and efficient and professional technocrats in their depots which at present are managed by only engineers. Like in the departments of irrigation, IT, electricity, the RTC requires a professional manager at the helm with carte blanche to make it profitable.

With the kind of assets the RTC has, professional management can make both the organisation and its workers rich a la Singareni Colleries.

While welcoming back the RTC workers to join the duties, he even hinted that they would be given an opportunity to run the private routes if they come forward, a variant of workers' participation in management which was highly touted as a great humanitarian policy of the then Congress Government post the Mumbai strike that never became a reality.

But, if the workers keep trust in him, KCR will definitely allow some routes to be operated by the workers, either individually or as cooperatives.

(The author is retired HOD, Govt Polytechnic, Sircilla)

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