“Watching Mahabharat, eh?” Lulu, my parrot, flew in and landed on the chair next to me. Just in case you do not know, parrots have a deep interest in Mahabharat. And while I have been at home, thanks to the Lock-down, Lulu, my parrot, is having a great time flying all over the country.
“Yes Lulu.” I picked up the remote and lowered the volume.
“Which Mahabharat character does Yogi Adityanath remind you of? He has suspended all labour laws from operation.” That was a googly to me.
“Hmmm….. The Chief Minister of UP? Leave him alone, Lulu. But if you insist, Dushyasana I would say. The Kaurav prince who tried to disrobe Draupadi and dragged her by her hair.”
“Aw… Aw! That’s so apt!! And you have killed two birds with one stone – Dushyasana also means bad governance. Yogi’s steps have been followed by five or six states. So, we have a team of Dushyasanas.”
“Team? Perhaps ‘gang’ is a better word. And labour, particularly the migrants do have something in common with Draupadi. They have been denuded of all protection.”
“And trade unions, are watching it helplessly, gnawing their teeth, but they can’t do much except shouting against these Dushyasanas.”
“This is what the neoliberal policies have delivered to us, and the situation is only aggravated by the Covid pandemic. I wonder what made Yogi Adityanath take such drastic measures.”
“He wants to invite Capital to his state. Labour and Capital are competing interests and those in power wish away competing interests. It is a big pain to manage them.”
Lulu cut me short. “Let me read this out to you.” He picked up a book. “Freedom of the kind championed by neo-liberals means freedom from competing interests. It means freedom from the demands of social justice, from collective bargaining…. It means, in sum, freedom from democracy.”
“Wow! Who is the author? Which book are you reading?”
“And you must listen to what he says further: ‘The freedom of the elite from democratic restraint limits other people’s freedom from hunger, poverty, and brutal conditions of employment.’”
“So true. So apt for the situation we are in today.”
“That’s George Monbiot in his book ‘How Did We Get Into This Mess?’”
“So, the industrialists can make employees work for twelve hours and at the ‘single rate’”
“Yes, and if he quits, he does not get gratuity which he may have otherwise got.”
“Because the Gratuity Act is also consigned to the Ganges by Yogi.”
“What are the intellectuals doing? How can they allow such a rip off to happen?”
“Trust intellectuals to hold meetings to discuss Yogi’s ordinance. Some of them have liked this idea of resetting labour relations.
“Do you know what George Orwell said?”
“Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them!”
“Do you remember what happened in Ahmedabad Textile strike? The situation arose out of plague epidemic when many workers left the city. The prices soared high as normalcy returned but not the wages. So, he went on ‘Satyagraha’ or fast unto death. He stood for the workers and got them 35% increase in wages.”
“Ha, ha. He stood against the Mill Owners, Sarabhais, who were his friends. But the Mahatma supported the workers.”
“No such luck for the workers in Uttar Pradesh. The man on the opposite side is ripping apart the fabric of the nation, and he is not a Mahatma, he is Yogi!” Lulu said and nibbled at chillies.
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
Feature Pic Courtesy Flickr.com