Striking at the roots

Nothing else can be expected from people addicted to doles. Years of incessant pampering and unlimited free-lunches have rendered their psyche too lazy and numb to struggle or strive, even for a living, leave alone for progress. Lethargy and reluctance to change, even if it is for the better, are hallmarks of our national culture.

The manna at the top has gone dry and bankrupt, yet they want to be fed without straining their muscles. No wonder the very word ‘reform’ evokes nightmares amidst the protected mass of humanity, especially the government staff who have thus far remained children of a profligate god.

Despite assurances that their jobs would be secure, which itself is a big boon in these testing times, if still they make it their wont to strike work with alarming regularity, the reason is obvious. They simply do not want to work!

The entire nation went on a strike a week back to protest virtually everything under the sun. Each participant of the strike had his or her own reason, even diametrically opposite ones, yet they were all unified in their resolve to strike, a trait which disappears when it comes to national interest. Indeed, in fall we are united and when we stand we are divided.

The brainwave for the strike, needless to guess, emanated from the idle devil’s workshops, the left circles, and every one found in it an opportunity to satisfy the itch for shirking work. And without reproach and even a modicum of guilt the entire nation lapsed into a forced holiday and an extended weekend, gleefully while in actuality it was a cause for mourning. The state of the economy deems so.

Over two lakh employees of the insurance sector have struck work to protest the IRA Bill a couple of days back. The Bill is limping even without help from them, but then what is a protest if there is not even a token gesture from the unions?

And so the scores of secure staff of the sector heeded the clarion call of the captains of their unions for whom this stir is just a show of strength and nothing else. The IRA Bill was a bone of contention even in last week’s strike, but probably the pied pipers thought their rats needed exclusive attention.

The employees seem to care less and prefer instead to be led by their noses. Surely, much of the blame for the turmoil the distraught commoner is put through can be placed at the doorstep of this pampered lot. When the country’s economic survival itself is at stake, they still enjoy what could be deemed the best deal: Job security.

Are they all in government jobs because of their efficiency or owing to merit? It is just that most of them have been lucky to land there and luckier to luxuriate and spend away their time than several others who were not so blessed. The staff of the government departments and PSUs are the best insulated compared to the other citizens when it comes to inflation and recession, though they may not realise it or even feign suffering, which is more the case. Yet if they complain, it is nothing but sheer insensitivity combined with perverted greed.

Privatisation would surely envisage more work and greater accountability, concepts which are anathema to the massive mass of inert humanity that fill the government departments. Though such a sweeping condemnation may sound a little far-fetched the reality is that the cost of maintaining these staff is so astronomical and bears little comparison to the benefits that accrue to the nation in terms of productivity.

On the contrary, the harm inflicted through such strikes and go-slow tactics is phenomenal not to speak of the road-blocks that are placed before progress and governance.

After Wednesday’s strike, a union leader bleats that come what may the IRA Bill will never be allowed to be passed. Yet another champion crows over the success, as if he expected the staff to ignore the ‘don’t-work’ call. If only they had demonstrated such gallantry and commitment of purpose in their work, the country would not have been the shambles it is today.

What are the credentials of most of these union leaders who fancy themselves as messiahs of the workers? While during service they strut around government offices as if they own the place, after retirement they get elevated as godfathers even while continuing in their posts in the unions. It is pension, both in and out of service for them, not to speak of the retirement ‘benefits’ in the form of ‘purses’ as contributions from ‘grateful’ employees who are literally forced to pay up.

But bless us, their tribe is fast facing extinction as the union movement itself is under a cloud of irrelevance, but the damage caused by these men as they fade away is truly abominable. The government staff and PSUs represent the last vestiges of their stranglehold and it is just to shore up their sagging importance and hide their increasing shallowness that these captains raise the camouflage of apprehension about the reforms amidst the workers.

The fears against globalisation and opening up of some sectors are grossly misplaced and in any case irrelevant, because the reform wave has to be irreversible if the country has to move forward. But the union leaders who know that they are holding the wrong end of the stick would however, never concede this as they are aware that playing King Canute to their followers could be disastrous to their own survival. Acting out the Pied Piper is a more ‘rewarding’ option.

More strikes seem to be in the offing, if one were to believe the promises held out by the other demanding heights of our economy. The bankmen are itching for a holiday, the customs staff have issued their customary notices, the excise employees are truly exercised over being left out of the charity binge and the postal unions may want to celebrate the anniversary of the crippling strike of last year.

There may be sundry other strikers who too will make their humble contributions to the country’s destruction. But then who can bell these cats when the country’s Parliament, the (in)competent authority, itself is under a prolonged strike?

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Jawahar T R