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Perpetual suffering for Kerala due to militant trade unions
The aspect that paved the way for making Kerala a no-investment zone, is the unbridled, no holds barred freedom that the Left parties and Congress had given the trade unions in the state
Why did Kerala perpetually face the prospect of investors' deficiency - unwilling to invest, and open shop in the state, despite government's proclaimed, liberal and progressive measures that are supposedly being offered to investors, in an effort to make the state investor friendly? The onus lies squarely on the two political groups that have been coming to power in the state, in an unmissable rotational pattern, so far – the united democratic front and the left democratic front – UDF and LDF in Kerala.
The recent case of a garment unit Kitex that dreamt of expansion in the state, building an export oriented children's wear unit that was the dream of the Kitex founder, in providing jobs to people in the region, an investment to the tune of Rs.3, 500 was rudely shattered in the wake of indifference and political vendetta by the ruling LDF dispensation in the state. This was a serious blotch and aberration on part of the government for wishing away an investment opportunity that came knocking at its door, that proved to be yet another example in LDF's anti-industrial mindset.
But there are others who wanted to take advantage of this missed opportunity by Kerala, in wooing Kitex to their states, with open arms, guaranteeing all advantages and facilities by States like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Gujarat. But the real winner and true beneficiary to capitalise on the deal was Telangana. The credit to which undoubtedly must go to K T Rama Rao, Telangana IT and Industries minister, who had sent a special plane for Kitex management to reach Hyderabad from Kochi, Kerala, to help establish their business in Warangal. The proposed garment unit is coming up well, on the outskirts of Warangal, will prove a feather in the cap of Telangana Rashtra Samithi government in the state.
The aspect that paved the way for making Kerala a no-investment zone, is the unbridled, no holds barred freedom that the Left parties and Congress had given the trade unions in the state. The trade unions became become a power unto themselves to dictate terms to the government; as a result the common man in Kerala is reeling under the impact of unreasonable and irrational wage demands being made by these unions - for loading timber, and other day today products – like steel, cement and fertilizers, in the state.
Even farmers who take their farm produce like elephant yam, and banana are prevented from unloading. But small course correction was made in accommodating the small and medium agricultural establishments that are barred from this handedness by the unions, so much so that unless their services are sought they will be off the scene. The 'nokkukooli' aspect of demanding wages by labour unions for merely overseeing an activity of loading or unloading, despite not being part, which is undertaken by a third party was in the news recently.
The loading unions demanded a huge sum of Rs. 10 lac for a giant wind tunnel for the ISRO as 'nokkukooli' though they had no wherewithal to undertake the job on their own; while the ISRO said they would unload it on their own, as they had their own arrangements to do so. The Kerala High Court intervened in the issue and upheld ISRO's point of view. The ruling LDF, all the while maintained the nokkukooli practice in Kerala to be a redundant practice and is no longer in force; but the reality is otherwise.
Kerala had witnessed the collapse of more than 75 or more profit making public and private sector units in the state, in the past four decades due to irresponsible and destructive mentality of trade unions, which needlessly instigated the work force against the management, making fictitious and irrational demands for wage hike and other perks.
A case in point is the closure a well- managed and well-paying Gwalior Rayon Ltd unit, near Calicut that came under the sway of corrosive mentality played out by trade unions that had led to lockdown and subsequent closure of the unit, three or more decades ago, under the then LDF rule for no reason at all. The interesting thing is that the employees did not exhibit any remorse or guilt as a result of losing their jobs.
The propensity of governments in Kerala to protect and help survive the loss making government units is legendary; at the cost of the public exchequer in maintaining them. The glaring example in this regard is the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) which is a perpetually loss making establishment for sheer indifference of the staff and gross mismanagement. Mechanics refused to work overtime in the night shift, in ensuring timely maintenance of long route interstate buses that required repair.
Any new and innovative suggestion and proposals put forward by the MD or GM fell on the deaf ears of workers; while salary and pension are unfailingly earmarked for the KSRTC in every budget of Kerala which is in the range of Rs. 800 to 1000 crores annually. Will there be any transformation in this bleak scenario and outlook for Kerala in future?
K V Raghuram, Wayanad