Has Striking Become A Habit For Government Employees In India? – OpEd

On March 16, 2017 employees belonging to government of India, including the postal department, went on All India strike, with the public losing count as to how many times the government employees have gone on strike on various pretexts in the last few years.

In any case, when the government employees went on strike this time, most of the segment of the Indian population who face the brunt of the problems caused due to the strike, do not know as to what is the purpose of this latest strike. While strikes by government employees do not any more make news in India, as it has become too routine, in the case of the strike on March 16, most segments of the public were shocked, since the government of India revised the salaries and perks of the government employees steeply only recently, by accepting almost in toto the recommendations of the seventh pay commission.

While the employees are entitled to have some grievance or the other (which section of the society do not have grievance), the question is as to whether they should go on strike so frequently and on flimsy grounds, paralyzing the entire administration, with least care and consideration for the sufferings inflicted on the people, loss of national time and for the national exchequer.

It is a fact that striking is recognized as legitimate tool and appropriate way of registering protest by trade unions. But when this tool was given to the trade unions, it was with the objective of safeguarding the interest of the oppressed and suppressed people.

Can government employees in India consider themselves as belonging to this class by any stretch of imagination? Are not the salaries and perks enjoyed by the government employees much higher than the income of the very large section of the country men, particularly considering the fact that around 30% of Indians still live below poverty line? Is it not a fact that public perception of government employees is that they are the privileged class, enjoying considerable benefits even after retirement and the benefits for their families even after their lives?

Employees in private sector organizations would think hundred times before going on strike, since such a strike would inevitably affect the progress of the organization and cause economic loss to it which would destabilize the organization and consequently may affect the employees themselves in variety of ways. However, in the case of government employees, they do not think on these lines, since any loss to the exchequer is of no consequence to them and their jobs will not be threatened.

The unfortunate fact is that the leadership of the unions of the government employees are now under the control of coterie, who are full fledged politicians or those with definite political leanings. Most of the strike calls are given at the behest of the political parties and many times for reasons relating to government policies and programmes , which have to be discussed and decided in parliament and not by government employees.

In several developed countries, the strike decisions are taken by the employees based on secret voting by the employees. In India, this has never been done. In all probability, most government employees may not like this practice of going on strike for flimsy reasons but have to submit themselves to the dictates of the leadership of the unions, fearing threat and coercion.

The common man has started thinking that there is increasing evidence that government employees are taking the people for granted and strike has become a matter of habit for them and consequently a need at frequent intervals. In the process, the interests of the country have gone for a toss.

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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