When governments, both central and state, are not tolerating genuine criticism of governmental actions, and the courts are not doing much to protect the freedom of expression, a recent judgment by the Kerala High Court introduces a fresh breeze in an otherwise tense environment, where the voices of only some kinds of majorities are being entertained, while voices of minorities are being suppressed. Also, the judgment goes a long away in furthering the labour rights of employees, to express their opinion, even if it amounts to criticism of their employer or superiors.
And the leftward shift in Europe is no electoral capriciousness or mere fickle-minded mood swing of the electorate. Rather, they are firmly rooted in the material conditions of austerity, not only in Europe but even to some extent in America. Ten years of austerity as a result of the Eurozone crisis has left the population reeling. Japan has been sinking under the weight of austerity for more than a decade.
The 45th session of the Indian Labour Conference (ILC), had recommended that all scheme workers should be recognised as ‘workers’ and not as ‘volunteers’ or ‘honorary workers’, should be paid minimum wages and they should get all statutory benefits like pension, gratuity, DA, earned leave, medical leave, and maternity benefits, including child care leave, life and health insurance, etc.
As part of the state-wide protest call, in many districts people held demonstrations and in front of Varavara Rao’s house also a demonstration began in the morning. Various students, youth, writers, workers organizations participated and spoke at the demonstration. Several songs against state repression were sung. It was like a full-fledged public meeting, as it was on one of the main roads in the city.
The NDA government in the Centre and the Maharashtra government are trampling upon the entire gamut of rights and not only human rights as understood in the conventional manner. Labour rights, women’s rights and Adivasi rights all are turning into human rights issues because of repression.
Justice for women means the right to work, expecting their employers to understand and prevent sexual harassment at the workplace, zero tolerance of sexual harassment by employers, providing a mechanism to raise complaints when it happens. When employers fail in their duty to prevent sexual harassment, or even to recognise its existence under their nose, where is the question of ‘due process’?
Many women victims hesitate to approach the complaints committees because they fear getting doubly victimised in a hierarchic power relation — first through sexual abuse and if they choose to complain then through harassment at work. Moreover, the committees can only report their findings to the top management and it is the management which has to take action. When the senior management officials are accused, how can their juniors conduct impartial enquiry against them?
Given that the marker of identity of Scheduled Castes is the historic disadvantage of the untouchable, the question of proving backwardness by quantifiable data does not arise. This was the basic flaw of the Nagaraj judgment; its failure to recognise these markers of identity. This now stands corrected.
The rare sight that Delhi witnessed on September 5, with workers, peasants and the farmers marching decisively demanding a fair share in the growing economy of the country, is a cry for help. They are demanding implementation of MSP in accordance with the Swaminathan Committee report, irrigation facility as well as loan waivers. Workers are demanding better conditions and salaries. But it’s also a war cry. The present ruling government has been sent an ultimatum before the 2019 general elections. Will things change?