Monday, September 19, 2011

Hartals and Petroleum price hike


by D Dhanuraj

Another Hartal day passed in Kerala. It is a ritual all Malayalees are used to for ages. Not many will ask you about what happened post Hartal? did they have any impact on the cause? I dont think anyone did a study on these and made a report on cost benefit analysis of hartals. Sometimes, i wonder hartals add more business to the state economy as beverage corporation outlets have Onam business on the previous day of hartal and of course many tour operators are benefiting from hartals. 

Keeping jokes apart, I want to discuss the philosophy of hartals called by left parties to protest the oil price hike. Though I am in favor of declaring the oil price according to the international price market, I do believe that the system is not transparent one. It is still controlled by the party in ruling. When they postpone the price hike due to impending assembly elections, the scheme of things are very clear. There was no explanation for not slashing the price when there was a fall in the international market. Most of the oil companies belong to either navarathna or maharathna status. How is it possible when these companies claim to be bleeding.

Coming back to the topic of discussion, i have a recent experience on how an oil company behaves. I am staying near to an Indian Oil Bottling plant. Recently, there was a strike called by the workers belong to different unions. Reason was, they felt they were not adequately paid. When my curiosity worked, i could get the numbers. The strike was called by loading and unloading as well as by the cap (those who put cap on the lid of the cylinder) workers. Though there is no reason to work on the exact numbers that they were demanding (later they won also), i was wondering on the work culture of these employees. Many locals are working in this plant. Many of them work in our houses also helping in domestic activities. But many times, i learnt that they come to these work during their company logins. Mostly, they have 8 hours shift. But in between they will come out of the company and engage in their own business. I don't know any other private company would have entertained this work culture. Apart from these daily wagers and union workers, the full time employers get a very high salary. I am happy when anyone gets good money for their living. But a closer look will explain that these workers are not engineers or professionals rather semi skilled or non skilled workers. Again, i dont want to cite their salaries here but one thing is sure that they are getting high payment that cannot be expected even in a highly paid IT company in metros. So what is the cost here?

I am surprised that left parties call for hartal every time there is a hike in petroleum price. They say that this will lead to inflation and will affect the middle class. I am happy that they accept that there is a growing middle class in India. At the same time, i am confused why they dont raise voice for a better public transport system. If they believe that the petroleum price hike can affect the poor, why can they raise their voice for their mobility? Isn’t it a contradiction that left parties succumb to the private cars owners aspirations and demands. Aren’t they supporting rich and getting into unnecessary tango of import bills and climate changes?

Sad revelation is that those who get extra decent salary and those private car owners dont vote for left parties... what a dilemma..

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