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Travails of Workers Today

Letters

Travails of Workers Today

V
idyadhar Date’s article, ‘Harsh Reality of Workers Today’ (March 25), deserves sincere acclaim. There is no doubt that this is a crisis period. Trade unions are losing their earlier importance in the organised sector. Factories are closing down all over India pushing thousands of workers to the brink of death. The land that once belonged to many of these factories is being used for the construction of multi-storeyed buildings for the rich and the middle class. A few of the factories that do reopen after long negotiations or after changing hands retain only a small percentage of their original workforce in their rolls. For example, in Dunlop, once a reputed tyre manufacturing firm in West Bengal, the new owners (Ruias) are in favour of keeping only 1,200 employees out of a total 2,700 who were on the company’s permanent payroll before. So those seen as redundant will come under the early retirement scheme. Thus, workers have no job security. The situation is even worse in the unorganised sector. In two brick-kilns in West Bengal, 92 labourers who had migrated from the states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand because of non-availability of jobs due to drought conditions in these states, were kept as bonded labour by their employers. These labourers were denied even basic subsistence wages, meals, and medical treatment in times of need. Finally these hapless people were rescued by an NGO with the help of local police. Women working in the informal or domestic sector are in a more vulnerable condition. Many of them are regularly sexually harassed. They maintain silence for fear of losing jobs. Recently in Kolkata, popularly known as the “Red Bastion”, newspapers reported that an elderly woman employee had been treated inhumanely by her employer after he suspected her of stealing some family valuables.

Little more need be said about the IT sector, the sunrise industry! The West Bengal government is in favour of bestowing essential service status to it, i e, no bandh or stoppage of work for any reason to be allowed in this sector. But the sector is not problem free. Long hours of work, permanent night-shifts, incredible high work targets have increased instances when employees are compelled to seek medical help for work-related stress, irregular sleeping hours, unhealthy food habits and chronic fatigue. The family lives of employees of the IT sector are also affected. Efficiency and long duty hours are not positively related.

SRABANI GHOSH

Kolkata

On Reservation

W
ith regard to the editorial, ‘Merits of Mandal II’ (April 15), while we must be fully committed to the uplift of the poor, backward and weaker sections of the society as envisaged by our Constitution, it is regrettable that the issue of reservation to ensure the upliftment of long deprived sections has become a divisive subject. It is felt that reservations have created a new “elite” class within the SC/STs leaving the bottom line harijans and others in the lurch. The reservation quota in certain aspects has failed to percolate equitably to the truly deprived sections of our population. In fact, the benefits of reservation meant for the backward classes have been snatched by the “creamy layer” among them. At the same time, the system of gauging backwardness solely on the basis of caste must be gradually done away with. It is thus necessary to create the right atmosphere in a democratic way (education, for example). In another example, the Supreme Court had ruled that a person belonging to a socially and economically backward class can be identified without reference to caste.

J AKSHAY

Secunderabad

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Economic and Political Weekly April 29, 2006

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