Nation-wide strike … some thoughts.
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a) People who feel that they are not sharing in the economic gains of the country resort to strikes. That much is understandable. And we must do something about this – inequality at these high levels is harmful in many ways.
b) The public at large, however, is tired of strikes – especially because in addition to economically motivated strikes called by disaffected workers, there is another set of strikes called by employees of over-staffed public sector organisations that most people think should have been closed long ago, because they are just a drain on the exchequer. And this is compounded by bandhs called by political organisations on much more flimsy pretexts. The public is also not impressed by people who try to enforce strikes and bandhs by physical violence. The result is that as an instrument of seeking justice, the economic strike is being eroded.
c) The Supreme Court has not been sufficiently firm in enforcing its own orders against political bandhs. This is part of a broad pattern where a lot of court orders are simply ignored, and the court is too transient (most judges serve only a few years before they retire) for sufficient traction to back up past rulings.
d) Those who call strikes – and bandhs – do not do enough to educate the public and motivate others to support their causes. This has reduced such events to the status of enforced holidays in the minds of employees and lost productivity in the minds of employers. The actual issues underlying the strikes are lost somewhere in the far background.
e) In many sectors, employment is now widely distributed across companies of different sizes, and also among the informal sector groups. The government’s options in responding, therefore, are quite blunt. To be effective, claims have to be sharper, and the desired responses actually actionable in a focused way. That’s not the case with most strikes.
Whatever the causes, and whatever the justifications for economic tension, when it comes to strikes we seem to be just going through the motions, and not really pausing to reflect, either on how we got here or what we should do now that we are here.