Entrepreneurs of Hartal, Morcha and Strikes are on the road to unemployment, after the setbacks that the left front movement of Kerala faced in the last few months. Unlike in other parts of the world, when different groups and movements organize protests, morchas, hartals etc for a particular cause, often Kerala can be an exception. Common man would never understand the objectives and goals of protestors and Hartal organizers. And it has emerged as a rampant ‘socio-political entrepreneurial activity’. You try hard to understand why there is a Hartal or Bandh on a particular day in Kerala, in all probability you won’t find a convincing answer.
Bureaucrats of Kerala i.e., Gazzeted and Non-Gazzetted officers, benefit from the strike friendly socio-political climate of Kerala. If Thursday is a public holiday and the following ‘Saturday’ a “second Saturday”, higher are the chances that Friday would witness a major Hartal , Bandh or Work Strike in Kerala. The bandh in all probability would be against FDI and economic policies. And it may also be for the implementation of pay commission reports! Incidents and happening at Gaza or US bombings in some very distant countries also would be remembered through such strikes and hartals. And any readymade theme would spring up and there will be a series of debates on all Malayalam TV channels.
But surely, unions of NGOs have to support strike announcements to succeed. NGOs of Kerala are Non- Gazetted Officers (NGOs), unlike Non- Governmental Organizations in other parts of the country. And GOs are Gazetted officers. And these unions of NGOs are very powerful and they decide whether policies and programmes of the government to be implemented or not.
Some amount as money gift to speed up your work is very normal. More importantly it has to be given in such a way by insisting that the recipient is a great officer, sincere and hardworking fellow. Prevalence of this practice would be difficult to counter. Work culture is yet another issue that cannot be addressed.
Thiruvananthapuram city is a hub of GOs and NGOs – Kerala Babus. Dearness Allowance (DA), Special Allowance ( SA)and all kinds of announced and unannounced privileges, together with rent seeking mode in which Kerala government offices work, has made Kerala a unique model of socialistic experiment, that will remain the same for some more time. This is called Kerala Model!
The higher purchasing power of Thiruvanathapuram residents seems to have emanated from the widespread presence of GOs and NGOs settled in Kerala’s capital. Whereas in other parts of Kerala it could be NRI money! Ernakulam bound trains from Thiruvananthapuram would be almost over crowded in the afternoons, 2 PM onwards. Queue breaking NGOs, at the rail ticket counters, with their rexin shoulder bags, trying to take a season ticket/normal ticket, after breaking queues, catch early trains from Thiruvanthapuram railway station, on their way back home, is a daily scene. If Modi government can successfully bring down the attendance rate at Golf Clubs in the Indian capital and keeping them remaining in offices, then why can’t it not happen in God’s own country.
And an official of State Pay Commission recently stated that alcohol ban would create difficulty for the State government to implement his ‘revised pay scale’. Every festive season would witness different kinds of pressure tactics by powerful unions of NGOs and lobbies of GOs for announcement of Dearness Allowances, festival season allowances and bonuses etc! As usual this would follow new taxes and revenue generation drives to meet the resource requirements for allowance payments.
Last general election witnessed BJP vote share going up. Thiruvananthapuram has almost gone to the BJP, where Mr. O. Rajagopal could gain substantial lead at one point of time and TV commentators counted ‘ONE’ Lok Sabha seat for BJP from Kerala. There is an increasing feeling of uneasiness among Kerala’s entrepreneurial community, Small and Medium Enterprises ( SMEs), common people and women about the business climate, work culture, functioning of government, corruption in local government offices and more so about ‘strike & hartal culture’.
Prime minister could send across a strong signal to the bureaucrats in Delhi with his insistence on office timings, punctuality and efficiency, virtues that the Indian bureaucrats never bothered till 2014 May. So far it was the common man calling the Babus “SIR”. Peons upwards in the hierarchy in the government offices are “Sirs”, and entrepreneurs, common men and all others have to fall on their feet and please them to get things done, apart from the compulsory monetary allurements that they usually pocket. The new government seems to have some success in improving the attendance rate and efficiency level of babus. The day when Babus have to call visitors to their office as “SIRs” will come soon. However, the link between frequent revision of pay scales on a stable public finance system and inflation need to be evaluated.
Though, State government Babus are under State governments, there is a need for a national level thinking and approach on improving work culture, and climate of strikes and hartals. Improving work culture of Indian bureaucracy is not something that is limited to the Babus of Delhi alone. It is also applicable to Kerala’s God’s Own NGOs and GOs.