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Even as the Covid pandemic has battered many lives across India, some have turned this crisis into an opportunity. One such person is Farooq Alam of Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district.
Two years ago, Alam was an employee at a private firm in Delhi, but today he provides self-employment to 30-35 people in his Bangra Sugauli village. Alam, 36, went to seek a job in Delhi four to five years back after he failed to secure employment in his state.
Alam told IANS: “After the outbreak of the first Covid wave and the subsequent lockdowns, I had contacted people from Ramgarhwa, Raxaul, and Harsidhi areas, who were my fellow workers in Delhi, and then we decided to turn the crisis into opportunity by making readymade garments in my village itself. They too agreed to my proposal and we started our business with five sewing machines.”
He added that currently, his factory has 30 sewing machines and many other machines, which are used for making readymade clothes. He said that after that the demand for his clothes was from Delhi, Kolkata, and Guwahati. Alam said that amid the lockdown due to the second Covid wave, he got an order for 10,000 masks. He added that today there are 30 to 35 people working in this factory.
Shamshad, who works in this factory, said: “Today, we are all getting work in the village only because of the mercy of Allah, what can be better than this.” Alam said that they are now planning to expand the factory. (IANS/SP)
As the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps the globe, denting economies and devastating medical infrastructures, the role of the trade union movement in India and its widely accepted irrelevance in the changed circumstances, merits a deeper analysis. What is the role of trade unions in a new globalized, privatized, and liberal socio-economic order that seems to have found popular acceptance in most emerging societies?
Looking at the long queues of litigants at the labor courts, it would appear that trade unions have lost the will to fight it out in the field with strikes or direct action. They now prefer to get engaged in protracted disputes settled by litigation committees or tribunals.
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“The reality is that in the new so-called liberal economic order, the workers are totally at the mercy of the employers who can fire anyone at will. Job security is an outdated concept. With most government departments these days outsourcing services, the bargaining power of unions has been drastically reduced,” says Abhinay Prasad, president of the Self-employed Workers and Vendors Association, of Agra.
In a country populated by farmers and an unorganized workforce, the relevance of celebrating May Day remains highly questionable, if not amusing, adds former trade union activist Shravan Kumar Singh. “Who is fighting whom? Trade unions as ‘schools of revolution’ is a dated concept. The leftists these days feel left out from all spheres of public discourse. They hardly have any contribution to make in a system where roles are not clearly defined and the economic classes not clearly segregated, as Marx would have wanted,” Singh added.
As the number of self-help employers is going up steadily, it becomes difficult to decide who is exploiting and who is being exploited. “But our fight is chiefly against the government agencies and the police who harass and often turn to exploit vendors or petty shopkeepers,” says an aging trade union leader.
“Trade unions everywhere are losing their revolutionary character and are seen degenerating into litigation committees, striking deals, and bargains with management. Their preoccupation is no longer waging a class struggle or sharpening the political consciousness of their members but winning small mercies from the establishment,” opines a former left-leaning commentator Paras Nath Choudhary.
Strikes are no longer in fashion. This is because trade union leaders are now members of the management boards, with a responsibility to keep the wheels of industry running in their collective self-interest, adds Ram Kishore, president of the Socialist Foundation. “These days we do not see any effort by the working class to wage a relentless struggle for restructuring society according to Marxist thinking. Karl Marx visualized that the working class would eventually become the vanguard of the socialist revolution, with trade unions acting as the organizing centers for uniting the forces of workers competing with one another and to give them elementary class training.
But experience has shown that these institutions have emerged neither as independent centers of power nor as schools of socialism and solidarity. Of late we have seen a tendency of most unions to appear “apolitical”. Many have refused to make political statements that could lead to a change of governance. Union leaders do not realize that the genuine interests of workers lie not so much in the percentage of dearness allowance or gain in salary structures but in the real purchasing power of money which depends on the political and economic policies of a government.
In practical terms, the main function of union leaders is to “keep the fellows in order” to help keep the industrial wheel running at any cost. It is not surprising therefore that in the industrialized West, trade unions are considered an extremely vital part of the establishment and involved in the decision-making process. Today’s grim reality is that as institutions of labor activism, they cannot challenge the system or even question the existence of a society based on a division of classes. The history of the trade union movement in India proves that the unions can never be a vehicle of advance towards socialism. They are tied to capitalism and therefore cannot transform or rebel against the given system.
The isolated case of a big union’s involvement with the changing of the system was the 18-day long railway strike in 1974 by George Fernandes that hastened or created conditions for the imposition of emergency. Clearly, the trade union movement is at a crossroads. It has to redefine its agenda and its ideological parameters. Organizing rallies to promote sectarian interests is one thing, but getting involved with a larger struggle to usher in socialism and leading the working class to dismantle the feudal-capitalism complex is quite another.
Trade Union leaders no longer want to play a political role. The old model of a trade union always being in conflict with the establishment has changed. Now there is close coordination and co-existence. This has put the ordinary worker in a permanent state of tension and uncertainty.
The labor class can not afford to fight as alternatives are no longer available, due to the shrinkage of the job market and the economy not really looking up. Clearly, the trade union movement is at a crossroads. It has to redefine its agenda and its ideological parameters. Organizing rallies to promote sectarian interests is one thing, but getting involved with a larger struggle to usher in socialism and leading the working class to dismantle the feudal-capitalist complex is quite another. (IANS/SP)
Make a library or read a fictionalized biography of Kasturba Gandhi, who was as strong and great as the Mahatma; there’s a love saga between a widower and an estranged woman; a tale of a new woman at the turn of Independence; analyze the relevance of older values in present-day life and the need to change with the times; observe the generational change and conflict in a Tamil community.
There’s this and much more as starting Library Saturday, over the next 20 days, Niyogi Books offers you a digital library from its Thornbird imprint a compelling melange of Indian language literature in translation — one book a day at Re 1 each, in collaboration with the Indian Novels Collective and downloadable on Amazon.
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Here’s what’s on offer to make a library:
April 24: The Heroine and Other Stories by D. Jayakanthan (translated from Tamil). Each story in this collection delves into the depths of the human psyche, revealing the hidden strengths ordinary people find within themselves when faced with extraordinary circumstances.
April 25: Ballad of Kaziranga by Dileep Chandan (translated from Assamese). This is not a love story (although it does seep in), but rather, the story of love three friends share for the beautiful and majestic Kaziranga, in their own unique way.
April 26: Blossoms in the Graveyard by Jnanpith Awardee Birendra Kumar Bhattacharyya (translated from Assamese) is the story of a young girl from a village in what is at that time East Pakistan as she journeys from dependence to self-reliance in the midst of the Bangladesh liberation struggle.
April 27: Elegy for the East by Dhrubajyoti Borah (translated from Assamese) explores the utter helplessness and travails of man in face of the relentless march of history.
April 28: Brink by S.L. Bhyrappa (translated from Kannada) is a love saga between Somashekhar, a widower, and Amrita, an estranged woman and deliberates on the moral, philosophical, and physical aspects of love between a man and a woman.
April 29: Kasturba Gandhi: A Bio-fiction by Giriraj Kishore (translated from Hindi) ? is the fictionalized biography of Kasturba Gandhi, a woman as strong and great as Mahatma Gandhi, who earned a place in history because of her personal sacrifices and strength of conviction in what was right.
April 30: A Plate of White Marble by Bani Basu (translated from Bengali). It is the tale of the new woman’ of an era that has just witnessed the independence of a nation.
May 1: A Day in the Life of Mangal Taram by Anita Agnihotri (translated from Bengali) is a selection of 14 stories out of over 200 short stories written by Anita Agnihotri, whose works traverse a wide range of human emotions, spanning over three decades.
May 2: Island of Lost Shadows by E. Santhosh Kumar (translated from Malayalam). Through the voices of myriad and sharply sketched characters, the author brings to life the troubled times of the Seventies when sadistic excesses were the norm.
May 3: Giligadu: The Lost Days by Sahitya Akademi winner Chitra Mudgal (translated from Hindi) is a multi-layered novelette, short in length yet deep in meaning and messages for urban India.
May 4: Generations by Neela Padmanabhan (translated from Tamil) is an intricate tale, simply told by a master of fiction about a community of Tamil speakers who live on the borders of modern-day Kerala – a novel of generational change and conflict.
May 5: A Fistful of Mustard Seeds by E. Santhosh Kumar (translated from Malayalam) explores moral dilemmas and personal traumas and delves into the dark recesses of the soul.
May 6: Land Lust by Joginder Paul (translated from Urdu) offers poignant glimpses of the unequal multiracial relations in colonial Kenya, evoking insightful moments of compassion from within the harsh xenophobic environs.
May 7: Laila Ke Khutoot: The Letters of Laila by Qazi Abdul Ghaffar (translated from Urdu) has been hailed as the ‘first specimen of a truly psychoanalytical fiction in Urdu’.
May 8: In the Glow of Your Being by Govind Mishra (translated from Hindi) examines the issues faced by the modern Indian woman and probes deep into the question of their freedom and its denial by society.
May 9: The Elixir of Everlasting Youth by Lakshmi Nandan Bora (translated from Assamese) is the story of an internationally renowned scientist who apparently has everything – scientific breakthroughs, awards, fame, wealth, and a fine family; the key to rejuvenation continues to elude him till he finally learns the secret, helped by a yogi’s treatment and modern science.
May 10: The Story of a Timepiece: A Collection of Short Stories by Sankarankutty Pottekkat (translated from Malayalam) deals with complex characters and human relationships in realistic, everyday situations, often reflecting the social consciousness of the pre-Independence period.
May 11: The Musk and Other Stories by Arupa Patangia Kalita (translated from Assamese) is an eclectic mix of short stories and a novella that sheds light on some of the burning issues that reverberate through the Assam Valley.
May 12: Jallianwala Bagh: Literary Responses in Prose & Poetry Edited by Rakhshanda Jalil (translated from Urdu, Hindi, and Punjabi) attempts to open a window into the world of possibilities that literature offers to reflect, interpret and analyze events of momentous historical import.
May 13: Beasts of Burden by Imayam (translated from Tamil). Set in the early 1970s when ritual status and payment in kind were giving way to cash wages, this is an extraordinarily detailed picture of a lifestyle that has now passed.
Here’s a chance to build up an eclectic library at virtually zero cost. What are you waiting for? (IANS/SP)
Turkey-based author Ann D’Silva has launched her new book “Child of Two Worlds”, which is second in the fictional ‘Sand and Sea’ series, which features the protagonists and immortal lovers ‘Kum’ (sand) and ‘Deniz’ (sea).
The book was launched online last week on Amazon. It is about true love which is ever entwined with a higher calling. The majestic sand and the mysterious sea are immortal lovers, protectors, guardians of the path of Good (”Taqwa”) against Evil (”Fujur”).
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A series on two soulmates and nature’s connection to love, the trilogy is also a travelogue across Turkey and India, tapping into cultures, places, and human connections. According to the author, the second book individually deals with some global issues like the displacement of families of Syrian refugees, adoption, and the importance of respecting nature.
The author talks about the characters in the book: “Ozcan Gunes, a young boy with simple desires finds himself on a path conflicting with his identity. His longing for his soulmate from his dreams grows over the years. Junaid, an unfortunate lad from the war-torn Syrian land, sees his fortunes take a turn when destiny crosses his path with a kind Imam, who offers him education and a better life. Hannah, a Mumbai girl, seeks the love of her life in a faraway land, heeding to the call from her dreams and embarks on a journey to find him, in Turkey.”
The book takes one on a journey to mystical places, sights of historic ruin, experiences of pain and joy, swim in the lyrical flow of poetry, and much more. Travel through the portal of Deniz in high tide across parallel lives. Karmic debt follows the protagonists as the war between Fujur and Taqwa brews at the shores of Dalyan and the hidden mystery of the countless grains of sand is revealed.
This book individually also taps into global issues like the loss of dignity through war, the displacement of the Syrian refugees, the heart connection of adoption, and the importance and respect to nature. The author hails from Mumbai and she has spent over two decades in the corporate world in senior management roles across the globe. She relocated to Turkey in 2019 and lives in Istanbul. Sand and Sea: Child of Two Worlds is her second book from the trilogy, and her first book, Footprints in the Sand, is translated into Turkish. (IANS/SP)