Friday, October 27, 2006

Unionization of BPO Workers, Letter to Indian Express

The Indian media has gone ballistic after hearing that the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) has launched a forum which is some type of union of BPO workers.

The Indian Express has published an editorial and op-ed piece on the same. The Op-Ed Piece has quoted an article by Amandeep Sandhu about BPO unionization too. I have made some critical points on both these articles (the edit and the op-ed piece) in a letter to the Indian Express. If time permits, I shall write a longer piece on the issue itself.

Subject: Unionization of BPO Workers in Kolkata.
While your editorial waxes eloquent on the need to keep BPO workers from unionization because of loss of competitiveness, which in itself is a spurious logic, it doesn't talk about the appalling work conditions of the BPO workers themselves. The opinion piece by Saubhik Chakravarti quotes the article by Amandeep Sandhu in EPW, about how unionization has hitherto failed and the lackadaisical attitude of the BPO workers toward the same, but the important reasons for the same are conveniently omitted. BPO workers have been clearly fed the logic that unionization is an activity meant only for the blue collared, eventhough their unskilled work itself doesn't pertain to the white collared. Sandhu aptly quotes another important work done on unskilled workers in Barbados where a similar attitude prevails.
Clearly, there is more to the opposition toward unionization than just loss of competitiveness. Also, there is no sufficient logic provided by your editorial or opinion writer as to why indeed unionisation *will not* help BPO workers tide over unhealthy work conditions. In addition to this, the editorial doesn't deem it necessary to notice that unions and unionization in the form of pressure groups exist in all types of societies to secure wages, good working conditions for workers, of the blue collar or of the white collar type (lawyers, sportspersons, etc). Even the Indian cricket players have a pressure group and a players' union, whose formation your lead writers have lauded in the past in your own newspaper! Perhaps if your editorial and opinion writers had however talked about the unionization of BPO workers under the thrall of ideologically motivated organizations such as the CITU as the primary problematic, it could have carried more sense. Blind opposition to unionization however seems prejudiced and devoid of complete logical veracity.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

4 years later in Gujarat

A terrific reporter (who happens to be a great friend) working with Himal Mag has come up with a riveting expose of Gujarat 4-years-post-Gujarat-2002.

Himal have an exclusive cover story on Gujarat:

What un-nerves a secular Indian is the stark brutality exhibited by the Bajrang Dal leaders and the pride that they wear for it.

No wonder, Praveen Swami and Anupama Katakam have shown so forthrightly how Indian Muslims are lured towards fundamentalism because of the clear dichotomization of Indian society in Gujarat under the rule of Narendra Modi.

Friday, October 13, 2006

El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido!

The People United shall always be victorious!

Heartiest congratulations to the SFI-led JNUSU for achieving a landmark deal that seals scholarships that will benefit scores of students pursuing Graduate and Post Graduate Education. After a valiant hunger strike in the campus, which included a one day sit in at the UGC headquarters, the JNUSU along with other students were able to achieve this long standing demand.

I miss being there at both the hour of pain (the indefinite hunger strike) and the hour of pleasure (the victory).

Anand has got a valiant account to narrate.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

On Kanshi Ram

The Hindu's Political Editor, Harish Khare, who FYI is a PhD in Political Science from Yale University, came up with a very good article in The Hindu about Kanshi Ram, after the latter's death.
I had a few things to say about the article and wrote a letter to The Hindu.
The original unedited letter goes as follows:
Subject: Apropos the Article, "The Debt we owe Kanshi Ram" by Mr. Harish Khare.

Mr Khare succinctly points out Kanshi Ram's legacy in forging an independent political identity for the Dalits. In making this point, Mr Khare points out that two seminal developments, that of Market Reforms and the Mandir agitation were responsible for the sudden rise of the BSP, through the means of realignment of forces. Kudos to Mr Khare for this analysis. Mr Khare however, in my opinion, has missed the most important of developments that resulted in strengthening of the "Bahujan" forces, the Mandal Commission Implementation.
Together, the three Ms (Mandir, Mandal and Market) changed the political discourse in India forever. Its a pity however that the "Bahujan" consolidation, that was Kanshi Ram's dream frittered away, because of the nature of the parties that the Samajwadi Party and BSP eventually turned out to be, under the leadership of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati. Far from forging together a representative identity of the historically marginalized, thereby challenging the hold of the upper castes, the two parties went on to articulate the OBC and Dalit identities as requisites for power rather than for genuine redistribution and social change. BSP, under Mayawati therefore has disappointed those who hoped this party would realize the Ambedkarite vision of "Annihilation of Caste". Uttar Pradesh politics of late has only seen a shifting of caste alliances rather than a roadmap for caste-dissipation.