In the last post I mentioned the issue of contract labour. I am tempted to say more about it before moving to the next issue.
My friend Arvind Shrouti who advises unions under the auspices of Option Positive, Pune mentioned an interesting model to me.
He said that the ‘employed’ persons, managers included, were divided in four categories. These categories are :
Vanchit: [The Deprived] They are at the bottom of the pyramid. These are persons who are waiting at the station or near building constructions to get a day’s job. Very often they do not get work and consequently pay for more than 10 days. They do not mind not being paid minimum wages – but they want steady work and some income. These persons live in abject poverty.
Shoshit: [The Exploited] These persons are contract workers who get paid minimum wages, although they may do the work similar to that done by the permanent workers of the industrial organisation where they work. They have no security of job, they get chucked out easily. Their working conditions are often very poor. They obviously have difficulty in making two ends meet, they find it difficult, [perhaps impossible] to educate their children and provide their families a good life.
Ankit: [The Identified] These employed persons hold permanent jobs but do not share the benefits of the exploitation of the Vanchit and Shoshit.
Sammeelit: [The Connivers] These employed persons, and they may include even workers in ‘high wage island’ companies, enjoy high salaries as well as benefits as a result of the deprivation of others.
While this model might sound very harsh, and academics may find theoretical grounds to attack it, one thing is for sure – that there is more than a touch of reality to it.
Dr Anil Awchat described the plight of the Vanchit in his book MaaNas [now available in English too] and though many would have seen people standing at Mulund station in Mumbai or at Shivaji Chowk in Kalyan in search of work, very few would have known the horrible conditions in which they work and live.
In many public sector enterprises and in some provate sector enterprises too, the permanent workers often rest while contract labourers work when the former are supposedly working overtime and earning double the rate of wages. The service industry, particularly the hotel industry, exploits contract workmen and thrives on it.
There is some hue and cry about the law which may be passed about domestic workers. Singapore has implemented it well. The implementation of it may not be done at all in our country. In India where laws are made but not implemented, one will have to rely on either the employer’s progressive values or on one’s will to wage a battle to earn a need based wage at the bottom of the pyramid!