Perpetual suffering for Kerala because of militant unions
Why has Kerala perpetually faced the prospect of investor failure – refusing to invest and shop in the state, despite the proclaimed, liberal and progressive government measures that are supposed to be proposed to investors, in order to make the state favorable to investors? Responsibility lies directly with the two political groups that have come to power in the state, according to a rotation pattern that has so far been unavoidable – the United Democratic Front and the Left Democratic Front – the UDF and the LDF in Kerala.
The recent case of a Kitex garment unit that dreamed of expanding into the state, building an export-oriented children’s clothing unit that was the dream of the Kitex founder, providing jobs for residents of the region, an investment to the tune of Rs. 3, 500 was brutally shattered as a result of indifference and political vendetta by the LDF dispensation from power in the state. It was a serious mistake and aberration on the part of the government for wanting to give up an investment opportunity that was knocking on its door, which turned out to be another example of the state anti-industrial spirit of LDF.
But there are others who wanted to take advantage of this missed opportunity by Kerala, wooing Kitex in their States, with open arms, guaranteeing all the benefits and facilities of States like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and the Gujarat. But the real winner and the real beneficiary to capitalize on the case was Telangana. Credit undoubtedly goes to KT Rama Rao, Minister of Informatics and Industries of Telangana, who sent a special plane for the management of Kitex to reach Hyderabad from Kochi, Kerala, to help establish their business in Warangal. The proposed tailoring unit is preparing well, on the outskirts of Warangal, will be a feather in the hat of the government of Telangana Rashtra Samithi in the state.
The aspect that paved the way for Kerala to become a no-investment zone is the unbridled and unfettered freedom that left-wing parties and Congress have granted to state unions. The unions have become a power in themselves to dictate terms to government; as a result, the common man in Kerala is under the impact of the unreasonable and irrational wage demands made by these unions – for the loading of timber and other products of today – such as steel, cement and fertilizers, in the state.
Even farmers who take their agricultural products like elephant yam and banana are prevented from unloading. But a small correction of course has been made by accommodating the small and medium-sized agricultural establishments which are excluded from this stranglehold by the unions, to such an extent that unless their services are requested, they will be out of the scene. The “nokkukooli” aspect of demanding wages from unions for simply supervising a loading or unloading activity, even if it is not part of it, which is undertaken by a third party, recently made headlines. .
The loading unions demanded a huge sum of Rs. 10 lac for a giant wind tunnel for ISRO as “nokkukooli”, although they could not afford to undertake the work on their own; while ISRO said they would unload it themselves, as they had their own arrangements to do so. The Kerala High Court intervened in the case and upheld ISRO’s view. The ruling DFL has throughout this time maintained the practice of nokkukooli in Kerala as a redundant practice and is no longer in force; but the reality is different.
Kerala has witnessed the collapse of over 75 for-profit public and private sector units in the state over the past four decades due to the irresponsible and destructive mindset of unions, which unnecessarily pressured labor. work against management, making fictitious and irrational demands for salary increases and other benefits.
One example is the closure of a well-managed and well-paid unit of Gwalior Rayon Ltd, near Calicut, which was gripped by the corrosive mentality played by the unions that had led to the foreclosure and subsequent closure of the unit, three or more decades ago, under the then LDF regime, for no reason. The interesting thing is that the employees did not show any remorse or guilt over the loss of their jobs.
The propensity of the governments of Kerala to protect and help survive the losses of government units is legendary; at the expense of the Public Treasury for their maintenance. The glaring example in this regard is the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) which is a perpetually loss-making establishment for sheer staff indifference and blatant mismanagement. Mechanics refused to work overtime on the night shift, providing timely maintenance to long-haul interstate buses that needed repairs.
All new and innovative suggestions and proposals put forward by the Director General or the Director General fell on deaf ears; while salary and pension are infallibly allocated to the KSRTC in every Kerala budget, which is in the range of Rs. 800 to 1000 crore per year. Will there be a transformation in this grim scenario and outlook for Kerala in the future?
KV Raghuram, Wayanad