Friday, May 31, 2024

Trade unions, vested interests


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The end of another weekend is followed by a two-day nationwide strike by trade unions backed principally by the Congress and the Left. The ‘provocation’ or the ‘excuse’ for this work-stoppage is the ‘wrong’ economic policies of the central government. This has been the standard excuse for nationwide work stoppage. The Left was at it even when the Congress was in power. Clearly no purpose was ever served by such strikes. Rather, the obverse happens; the economy will take a fresh hit due to the production loss. The Left, which is now at ground zero vis-à-vis its diminishing popular support, often organises such work stoppages and also hartals and bandhs to prove that it’s still a force to contend with. It cites vague reasons like “anti-people, anti-labour” policies of the government(s), “price rise” etc as reasons for such indulgences.
Now, being in the opposition, it is incumbent on the Congress party too to take on the government. The Left, having lost its individuality, is seen as the ‘B’ team for the Congress. The question here is whether the ‘wrong’ economic policies of the Centre affect only the working class represented by these trade unions. The salaried workforce, both white and blue are a class by themselves and are represented by trade unions. They form not more than 20 per cent of the population and are mostly a well-heeled lot as in the case of government employees, banking sector workforce and the like. The point to note is, the more they get, the more they demand. Their aggressiveness is set against the voiceless 80 per cent of the population. Fact is, salaries and pensions are not the only benefits to them. They get a whole lot of perquisites and every government grants them more at the cost of the national exchequer – effectively, an affront to the interests of the common citizens.
The central obsession of the Narenda Modi government through the past eight years has been its own survival and winning of elections. A prerequisite for this is to avoid taking any strong step against organised interest groups. Much-needed reforms are not attempted at or are abandoned as in the farm laws. As the government vacillates, the nation suffers. Worse, even the rootless left, the farmer organisations entrenched in a couple of states etc., are all allowed to “indulge.” The two-day strike now is another occasion for the workforce to rejoice as it yet again ensures them a four-day holiday at a stretch. With the Covid phase somewhat over, the pent-up negative energies of India’s vested interests will now have their full flow, be they in the streets or elsewhere.


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