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Alumni Speak
Friday, May 07, 2004

Name: Jaya

I sometimes wonder, what kind of world we are living in. The distinction between right and wrong is fading so fast. On one hand it could mean more freedom for individuals, on the other it could mean lots of confusion and chaos in the society. Generalities apart, Rajay Bhaiya has already pointed out the two sides of the coin. Is there a temporal dimension to the issue as well?

Considering the way things have evolved - strikes came up as a tool "against an insensitive and indifferent management" as Rajay Bhaiya has pointed out. Considering that it will certainly not be desirable to allow strikes. But has it happened that this face of strike has lost its lusture with time and today what remains is mostly the other face, again quoting him "whims and fancies of a handful holds the entire society for a ransom"? Possibly that's where the catch lies - things go in cycle. Employees evading work, employers getting strict to get genuine work out of employees, employers getting greedy to exploit employees, employees revolting for genuine reasons and gaining rights through institutions like unions, after that unions losing their importance because mostly genuine needs of employees are being satisfied, union leaders looking for power assertion techniques and hence going for strikes and other stuff leading to evasion of work, which may not have a genuine reason behind it and so on. May be the next round of cycle begins here - that's why this directive from Supreme Court (One will say Supreme Court is not an employer, is neutral etc., but judiciary is supposed to do the right thing and what is right is governed by the societal norms and the age we are living in. Court's judgment reflects the part of the cycle we are in.).

Thursday, May 06, 2004
discussion forum

Strikes are undesirable from the point of view of society because (a) these have the potential to seriously jeopardize normal functioning of a society and (b) an organization has a set of authority structure on which it works; strikes challenge this very structure and thus in the long run hurt everyone.

Strikes by government servants are worse as these people in a modern state form the backbone of a system supposedly responsible for smooth and efficient implementation of its policies- generally engaged in people oriented welfare activities and hence, their actions have tremendous impact on all strata of society.

Should strikes be banned? We must consider couple of issues before arriving at a conclusion.
i. Strike is a weapon of last resort, especially when engaged in distributive bargaining, for the unionized work force against an insensitive and indifferent management. You take it away and the bargaining ability itself is gone.
ii. Issue of enforceability of a piece of law: this may be one of the yardsticks to measure the justifiability of an action by judiciary/executive.

I am not advocating a chaotic regime where a group of people stops work at the drop of hat and whims and fancies of a handful holds the entire society for a ransom. I believe that it is possible to devise a framework that permits resorting to this ultimate weapon with certain preconditions and safeguards. There are precedents. In Banks, the system is such that wages are deducted automatically for the strike days and under no circumstances these are adjusted against, say, unutilized surplus leave. It affects employees’ pay bills almost immediately. Then unions have to give ultimatum well in advance. More of such deterrents can be imposed to make strikes less attractive as a tool to gain bargaining power.

Is S.C.’s judgment justifiable?
Well, dear Arzi, all its decisions are, by definition, just and equitable. No scope for any argument there. I, however, would like to conclude by quoting from an ancient Hindu law book:
“The injustice of the king is considered just as great when he inflicts corporal or capital punishment on a man who does not deserve it as when he sets free a man who deserves it; but it is justice when he exercises strong restraint.”
(Manu Smriti:9.249)

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