On Sunday, several Unionists blocked ISRO’s (Indian Space Research Organisation) wind tunnel equipment heading towards Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thumba, Thiruvananthapuram. Unionists blocked the truck to demand the charge of unloading and pay ‘Nokkukooli’ which is a banned practice in Kerala. However, only the Communist State Kerala can have such audacity to disregard the organization which they should be facilitating.
With such a shameful act, the Communist unionists have touched a new low to not even spare the ISRO, which has worked wonders for the development of India and has added a feather to its cap several times.
Communist Unionists demand ‘Nokkukooli’
A truck laden with heavy equipment heading towards the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), a key wing of the Indian Space Research Organisation was blocked by labour Unionists. The Unionists were demanding ‘nokkukooli’ or ‘gawking wages’, as a compensation amount because the unloading was supposed to be carried out through machine and not manually. However, the incident happened just three days after the Kerala High Court had directed the state government to effectively implement the law to get rid of the ‘nokkukooli,’ which is considered to be a bad practice.
The VSSC officials said their truck was stranded for more than four hours after workers sought Rs 10 lakh. Later, the labour minister V Sivankutty intervened and after several rounds of conversations, the truck was allowed to go inside the high-security premises.
Later, a source at the ISRO informed that there were 184 tonnes in the truck and the people who stopped the truck were demanding Rs 2,000 per tonne. The source stated, “We have a contract with Tata to do the unloading. These are heavy equipment and you will need cranes and other machinery to unload them. It cannot be done manually.”
Nokkukooli, the extortion tax
Nokkukooli, which has gained widespread notoriety all over Kerala, is considered as extortion by organized labour unions in Kerala that directs common householders, investors and builders to pay wages to trade union activists for allowing unloading of belongings and materials using machines or their own labour. However, the extortion by labours is carried out with the tacit support of political parties including those in government.
As per the wages list finalized by the Head-load Workers Welfare Fund Board in Kochi, Rs. 200 per load of ready-mix concrete is charged when the entire process is machine-driven. Similarly, one tipper load (lorry which can mechanically tip the load) fetches Rs. 15 for the union. Recently, in Idukki, the state Power minister A.K. Balan publicly censured head-load workers who fetched Rs 3,000 each as Nokkukooli.
However, the Kerala government had put an end to the practice of charging people by licensed members of the head load workers by not doing any work in 2018. But, fearing violence and intimidation by militant trade unions, people end up paying charges sought by them.
Moreover, after hearing a plea filed by a businessman from Kollam over the issue, the High Court had also said on Friday that the rights of the head load workers should be protected legally and petitions seeking action against those who demand Nokkukooli were on the rise.
The court observed, “The practice of nokkukooli is damaging the image of Kerala. It should be eradicated. It gives out wrong perceptions about the state. Meanwhile, the rights of the head load workers should also be protected.”
ISRO should be facilitated and not disregarded
Despite the court’s order, the Trade Unions went on to disregard the ISRO which should be a matter of pride for them as the organization has contributed a lot towards the growth of the state and the nation as well.
Earlier this year, the Indian Space Research Organisation’s ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) at Mahendragiri, provided help to Kerala with oxygen supplies. The organization ensured adequate oxygen supplies for COVID-19 patients. ISRO uses Liquid oxygen (LOX) as an oxidiser in the propellant combination for the cryogenic engine of the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV).
Not only for the state, but ISRO has also worked wonders to maintain India’s reputation among other countries as well. One of its contributions is MOM or Mars Orbiter Mission which is considered India’s biggest achievement. India remains the only country to reach Mars on its first attempt. In addition to that, ISRO accomplished the mission on a tight budget of INR 450 crore, which is the lowest to date. Moreover, India is the 4th country to reach the red planet after the U.S., Russia, and Europe.
Despite such contribution which should be praised by the communist government of Kerala, it is providing support to the labour Unions to reach such an extent to disregard ISRO. Thus, Communist state Kerala needs to learn ethics and should abide by the law to prevent such activities.