The recent Meru strike brings forth interesting issues – one of the nature of contractual relationship and the other of providing leadership. The strike has ended and Meru cabs will be plying now but I will not be surprised if it is an uneasy truce.
An interesting fact which Mumbaikars perhaps do not know is that Meru does not ‘employ’ drivers. There is no employer-employee relationship between Meru and Drivers – the drivers are actually independent contractors who have hired a Meru asset – cab – on rent. If we appreciate this nature of relationship we will also realise that the regular route of dispute settlement under The Industrial Disputes Act 1947 is not available to them.
A driver or DSE as he is called in Meru parlance is probably unable to conceive of any other mode of relationship with an organisation like Meru. So there are demands like ‘weekly holiday’ which just do not fit into the scheme of things because a Meru driver can ply his cab as and when he likes.
The driver’s perceptions can be understood considering their level of education, but what about their leaders? This is what the news reports said, “Swabhiman Sanghatna, led by industries minister Narayan Rane’s son Nitesh, which is heading the section of the drivers, is adamant. “The drivers will remain on strike till the company absorbs the terminated drivers without any conditions,” said KK Tiwari, president, taxi-auto wing of the organisation.” Would it be unreasonable to expect the foreign MBA degree holder Nitesh Rane to appreciate the business realities and legal framework?
The radio taxi service is unfortunately not declared as an ‘essential service’ but its importance should not be lost on anybody, much less to the leaders. A responsible leadership must strive to find solutions within the framework of accepted principles. Employing violence to garner public and political support is an age old tactic which the public is tired of. Issuing threats has become a favourite pastime of self styled leaders. It gets tolerated because the Government of Maharashtra is choosing to ignore it, both out of nepotism and timidity. What otherwise explains the fact that miscreants who have damaged dozens of Meru cabs have gone scot free?
Violence is the easiest option to solve a dispute, and the easiest option is often not the right choice. We need leaders, not just educated, but learned and who can resolve differences without transgressing the bounds of law. Encouraging a positive work ethos is the need of the hour; the society will pay a heavy price for ignoring it.