Need mature TU leaders

Updated: Apr 20 2005, 05:30am hrs
YRK Reddy’s piece ‘The marginalisation of TUs worldwide’ (April 16) was both timely and a must-read for trade unions in India. In principle, many leaders privately accept that liberalisation has hastened the demise and performance of industries, but vehemently oppose measures such as lay-offs, retrenchment, or closure to restructure and revive the company.

Labour laws, such as the Industrial Disputes Act and state Acts such as the Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, compound the problems of employers seeking a legal way out of the present morass. Even generous VRS schemes have not helped restructure organisations.
The nature of coalition politics will also ensure that no radical reforms in labour legislation will materialise in the near future. Under the circumstances, a mature trade union leadership and initiative is a sine qua non for organisations to come out of the present crisis.
With the problem of mafia-controlled trade unions waiting in the wings to usurp the leadership for their short-term interests—this includes colluding with unscrupulous owners for sale of land and closure of the industry through coercion and duress—many trade union leaders have abdicated their leadership role and remain mute spectators to the industry dying a painful death.
If trade union leaders had the courage to enter settlements to bring about rapid modernisation and enhance efficiency,
the threat of competitiveness, cost and quality problems the industry faced could have been more easily addressed.
In the changed market environment, of having to compete with countries such as China, trade unions and leaders have a very important role to play in transforming the companies they work in. They have to safeguard the interests of workers and also ensure the viability and survival of the industry they work in. It is indeed a dilemma, but it has to be resolved, if India is to leave its mark on the world economy.
R Krishna Murthy

Rural resurgence
Apropos your editorial ‘Rural resurgence’ (April 18). Although the rise in rural incomes makes good news, it does not represent ground realities. Else, there would not have been a spate of starvation deaths and malnutrition in rural areas. The increase in rural incomes and the sheen that comes with it only represents the economic divide creeping into rural areas.
Siddhartha Raj Guha

More of the same
Apropos the editorial ‘Rural resurgence’ (April 18). It is what we need for India to shine. NCAER’s findings that incomes in rural India are growing at a faster rate than urban incomes may be heartening. A better development plan for industry in rural areas is likely to help them.
Urban incomes may be more stable than rural incomes, the latter being dependent on factors like the monsoon. So suitable insurance schemes need to be worked out to help rural incomes.
A Jacob Sahayam