Monday, December 25, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



India’s labour laws

India is not able to take advantage of its low cost and high quality human resources, because of the out-dated and defective laws governing employment which have been followed for half a century.

These laws protect 30 to 35 million employees of the organised sector who form 10 to 12 per cent of the country’s work force. The earnings of this section of employees are at least three to five times above the minimum wage. These 30 to 35 million persons constitute 3 to 3.5 per cent of India’s population and do not form part of the so-called vote bank of Indian politics.

For reasons best known to the leadership, at the centre and at the State level, these 35 million persons are protected as if the country did not owe any responsibility to the rest of the population of 1000 million.

Half a century of independence has given freedom to women workers, in the organised sector, to do their knitting, in office. Late arrival and early departure is a way of life. Lunch break is like a rubber band, and can be stretched to two hours. If there is a cricket match of something of national importance, advance applications for sick leave are sent and the leave is granted in the interest of harmonious relations with the employees.

Half a century of independence has given us the freedom to report sick for 21 days in a year and get paid for it. Some people fall sick for 21 days in a year, not a day more or a day less. What calibre of management is allowing this?

Some sort of work ethic and work culture, including the fear of losing one’s job are necessary for a healthy economy.

Healthy and vibrant organisations create jobs, something which the people of India need badly. The employees of those organisations are the privileged ones, who are well paid. In a poor country they cannot continue to behave irresponsibly, when millions of their brethren do not even get two square meals a day.

We should protect employment, but not employees who do not work, who are not needed, who are corrupt and who are inefficient.

The sword of the prevailing labour laws must be removed.



Stop the bloodshed

For the Muslims, Sikhs and Christians who opted for India in 1947, the decision was final and they have not repented it. Those who opted for Pakistan and migrated to that country have not been treated well there while those who opted for India have become part of this nation and none is discriminated against because of his religion.

The people of Kashmir who are interested in separation should understand that Muslims in other parts of India are not willing to opt for Pakistan. They are happy and are marching ahead with the rest of the people of India. Today people have no religious problems. They are facing economic problems and instead of wasting our time on such issues we should concentrate on solving the economic problems of this sub continent. Many have started feeling that the partition of 1947 was not a right step because since then the people of the sub-continent have not lived in peace. We have fought three wars in which thousands were killed. Even the partition of 1947 had resulted in millions of deaths and crores were compelled to migrate to unknown places. Similarly we had killed thousands of our own people in Punjab and in Kashmir. People who have opted for India must sit together and decide that henceforth they will live in peace. Muslims living in the rest of India should advise their brethren in Kashmir to take the right path.



Polythene bags

Where stray cattle roam freely on the roads in search of food, accidents occur with distressing frequency. The disposal of kitchen waste in polythene bags is convenient but the disposed of polythene bags seen in and around the garbage dumps present a threat to the stray cattle. These animals with depraved appetite, ingest the polythene bags containing the kitchen waste. Anything desirable or undesirable can find its way to their stomachs. It is reported that 4000 polythene bags a coil of metal, coconut shells, a screw, a piece of sari and napkin were removed from the stomach of a cow after a surgical operation in a veterinary hospital.

Ingesting polythene bags and other undesirable articles can prove fatal.

The responsibility of preventing the movement of stray cattle in and around the garbage dumps lies with the municipal corporations and the invisible dairy owners. A ban on polythene bags can save the animals. It is a paradox that sacred cows are dying as a result of this thoughtlessness. Posters such as “Say no to polythene”, “Avoid plastics to save animals” should be displayed at different places to create awareness among the people against the use of polythene bags.


Our universities

This has reference to “What ails our Universities” by Gobind Thukral (Tribune, Dec. 3). I agree with the writer that the function of the universities is to encourage curiosity to gain and create fresh knowledge. Since independence, a mushroom growth of universities has taken place purely on political grounds and that has resulted in all-round deterioration of standards. A large number of postgraduates and Ph Ds are produced every year without even taking into consideration the needs of the country. There are very few universities or institutes where foreign examiners are associated with the evaluation of Ph.D theses. This results in sub-standard research and sometimes even repetition of work being done elsewhere. Moreover inter-disciplinary or collaborative research has not been encouraged so far. A decade ago it was mooted that post-graduate courses should only be taught on university campuses. Gradually the idea was diluted and now almost every college has post-graduate programmes even without having proper staff and infrastructure.

In the post-independence era a large number of National research laboratories were established for creating new scientific knowledge but even these institutions have not made any headway in their fields of research. They are not even linked with universities in any way.

In some of the disciplines a mere survey with the help of a questionnaire is considered sufficient to deserve the award of a Ph.D degree. The students must be exposed to the latest literature in sciences, humanities and social sciences in the form of books and journals as well as through seminars. It would have been better if we had a few well-staffed universities with excellent infrastructural facilities. There should also be an exchange of faculty programme with well-known Universities of the world.

Since the Government is short of funds, the institutions of learning are encouraged to adopt austerity in the recruitment of staff as well as building the infrastructure, and impose a steep fee hike. What is actually required is a reduction in the number of universities and modernisation of the remaining ones. Apart from this we should encourage employment-oriented courses through ITIs, polytechnics and technical and non technical colleges. Recently a large number of engineering and medical colleges came into existence without being properly screened before hand. This should be a matter of concern to the power that be. These institutions lack qualified staff and other infrastructure.

I agree with the writer that teachers should be associated with decision-making bodies and that there should be transparency in the selection of the faculty. There is a great need for depoliticising the campuses.


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