Sunday, May 09, 2004
The Supreme Court of India ruled that government employees had no “fundamental, legal, moral or equitable right” to strike work. The court is of the opinion that strikes “hold the state to ransom” and causes “heavy loss of man-days”. For just or unjust cause, the strikes can not be justified under present day circumstances, particularly when there is large scale unemployment and a large no. of well qualified people are eagerly waiting for employment.
Well, I agree that strikes do cause ‘inconvenience’; it results into chaos and total maladministration, the entire administration comes to a grinding halt. But, is the solution suggested by the Supreme Court really the most befitting one? The overall effect of Supreme Court is to ban strikes by more than three-fourths of India’s organized workforce. This would make India the only democracy in the world where the bulk of the workers are denied a fundamental right. Even the U.S. doesn’t have such a blanket ban.
Data and numbers are always there to show both the pros and cons of a subject. But, they do have a lot of potential to infuse objectivity and the stronger the analysis based on facts and figures is, the more are the chances of being more FACTUALLY correct and hence being more objective. ‘Debate’ after all is the hallmark of a democracy.
In the data concerning strikes, the total loss of man-days owing to strike is much less as compared to the loss of man-days owing to man-made accidents, unutilized capacities in the industrial units and lay-offs and lock-outs resorted to by the employers. The Supreme Court has not said that Lock-outs are illegal. Thus, if Lock-outs are not banned, then how the strikes by the working class could be banned?
If ‘inconvenience’ or ‘disruption’ be the sole criterion of the JUSTNESS or VALUE of an action, the HARTALS and SATYAGRAHAS of the freedom struggle would be branded undesirable and indeed they were by the colonial state. Yep! The times have changed today and quite often strikes are resorted to for trivial reasons and they are not justified. But, to counter these, the Supreme Court should devise a method.
I do agree with Rajeya bhaiya at this point, that there must be adequate checks and measures and strikes should be used only in the rarest of rare cases. But, at the same time, I do also agree with Soli Sorabjee, the Attorney general, who says “a court of law is concerned with legal and constitutional issues. The observation that employees have no MORAL or EQUITABLE right to strike is uncalled for and is beyond one’s comprehension.”
When conciliation fails, when the employer is not ready to negotiate, when he is hell bent on victimizing employees on petty matters, when he does not implement the Labour Laws and when the government is inactive, under such circumstances there should be every right for the working class to go on strike. Adequate checks and measures are welcomed but such a BLANKET BAN is uncalled for. Should we justify FASCISM because ‘the trains run on time’?