Who is your enemy, my dear comrade?

For the nth time in recent years, the people of the country are being held to ransom by the employees of an essential service who have, as has become their habit, once again struck at the worst of moments when their work is needed the most. The sinister timing apart, it is the downright irresponsible way the postal unions had embarked on the strike with virtually nil notice that is even more appalling. The Talwar committee recommendations are yet to be even officially announced.

There has not even been a discussion on the pros and cons of the proposals, a debate which may in fact end up with more benefits accruing to the postal staff. Yet the intractable unions, in a blatant display of oneupmanship and a callous disregard for the turmoils of the people have opted to up their demands to browbeat the government.

As one weak government after another buckles to the blackmail of these insatiable class called government employees, the nation is once again pushed to the precipice. With the piles of letters lying unattended burgeoning by the minute, and the backlog alone threatening to cripple the postal services for days to come, even if the strike were to be called off today, the unions have already delivered the nation a death blow what with correspondence relating to college admissions, dividend warrants, statutory notices etc, etc, remaining suspended we know not where.

 And after having inflicted such a casualty on the unsuspecting people and derailing their daily routine, the unions have the gall and temerity to claim success! Success indeed, if the magnitude of the anguish, pain and confusion is any indication. Greater the damage, bigger their success. How nice?

What a price for charity! And charity is what it is. There could be little doubt that what is being doled out in the form of salary and allowances is already grossly disproportionate to their productivity and flies in the face of equity. And yet they want more. Why? Because their efficiency has increased? Or had their services improved? Never, never for such reasons. Rather it would be because, somebody in some class of employees in some grade might be drawing a penny more than them.

They would call it ‘anomaly’. Why not rectify the anomaly by cutting down that extra penny that has mistakenly slipped through? Not acceptable, the captains of unions would scream and in any case, it would be in bad spirit to take back what was given. After all ours is essentially still a welfare state and what better way to promote welfare than doling out fatter and fatter paypackets, that do not entail any obligation on the part of the receiver? So the only course open is to pay up.

And then, lo and behold, some other class in some godforsaken department would suddenly realise that they are being cheated of a few pennies. Outrageous! Up go the flags, down goes the economy, once again as yet another essential service suffers a paralytic stroke bringing all activities to a standstill.

If it was the bankmen then, it would be the insurance employees next. The postal staff, the telecom staff, teachers, nurses… all would be biding their time to strike work…and strike terror. The labour terrorism that the country is often witnessing these days is even more crippling than the one let loose by the ULFA or the PWG, for the invisible damage suffered by the country is of a much greater magnitude and sometimes even immeasurable than the physical destruction caused by ultras.

And the latter are proclaimed offenders. The former are on the contrary, the most pampered blue eyed boys, and more importantly, a sizeable vote bank that cannot be ignored.

Who are your enemies, comrades? Whom are you fighting? Is there a management, like in the private sector that could be identified as the personification of all your woes? Is it the politicians? But then, do not the very same politicians who sit on uncomfortable, unimplementable recommendations and demands when in power, turn out to be the champions of your cause when they become political outs?

Are you so naive? Who then are you up against? The government? But then you are the government, the bankmen, the insurance employees, the postal and telecom staff et al. Who is your master who is tormenting you so much, and cheating you of your ‘well deserved’ pay hikes? Then, are the people whom you are expected to serve and who pay you through the invisible government, your enemies? What justification is there for them to suffer at your hands? Are the quality of services rendered by you commensurate with the pay that you seek? Would you tolerate a cut in salary, if say, a letter gets misplaced or if a cheque is lost?

Would you accept responsibility at all, for any of your lapses? Are you familiar with concepts called productivity, quality and punctuality? Would you tolerate, if say, your domestic hand washes three towels in four hours and then demands pay for eight hours, or for that matter, if your grocer delivers a kilo of rice of which half a kilo is pebbles? Do the government rules indicate that the salary is just for your attendance, a sort of retainer? Have your union leaders ever told you what and how much you have to work to be entitled to the salary that is already being paid, let alone the increments that you are fighting for? Comrades, and dear captains of unions, have you ever done such introspection?

 Most certainly, not! If they had, they would have realised long back what the people of the country have now concluded. That the government departments are too bloated to be efficient, their staff, too self-serving to be responsible and responsive, and their unions too obstinate to be told. That the government could be run with greater efficiency with just half of them.

And that, it is they who need the government and its ‘security’ and not vice versa. So let us tell them to serve us well first and then we will most certainly pay them. Till then it is charity and let us remind our comrades that charity cannot be demanded.

e-mail the writer at
[email protected]

Jawahar T R