ISRO truck blocked in Kerala; trade union members seek ‘gawking charge’
A truck laden with heavy equipment and headed towards the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), a key wing of the Indian Space Research Organisation was blocked on Sunday by a group of workers and local people in Thiruvananthapuram demanding “gawking charge”.
Interestingly, this happened three days after the Kerala High Court pulled up the state government for not effectively implementing the law to get rid of the strange practice called ‘nokku kooli,’ in local parlance which means gawking wages.
In 2018 the Kerala government had abolished the practice of charging people by licenced members of the head load workers by not doing any work. Affiliated to militant trade unions, the practice is still continuing in many parts of the state. Fearing violence and intimidation many end up paying charges sought by them. It is better known as extortion by registered trade unions.
The VSSC officials said their truck was stranded for more than four hours after workers sought ₹10 lakh. Later they informed the CM’s office about this and labour minister V Sivankutty intervened and the truck was allowed to go inside the high security premises after several rounds of talks and protest. A labour ministry official said action will be taken against labour leaders who provoked workers and local people. The issue has invited enough embarrassment for the Left Front government. Among trade unions the CPI(M)-controlled CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions) is prominent.
The Kerala High Court while hearing a plea of a businessman from Kollam last week over the issue said rights of head load workers should be protected but petitions against ‘nokku kooli’ were on the rise and asked the government why it was not effectively intervening in such issues. “The practice is damaging the image of Kerala. It should be eradicated. It gives a wrong perception about the state. It should be corrected,” observed Justice Devan Ramachandran.