Thoughts & Ideas

Thursday, December 29, 2005

On Strikes & Striking

Of and on there has been a substantial amount of debate on whether going on strike generally justified in relation to the issues involved and whether going on strike is a justified form of protest for most issues.

On both these issues I have reservations. Though it is desirable to be socially aware and to stand up for ones rights, the extent to which the action is to be carried out is a somewhat subjective matter. One basic thumb-rule in a democratic society which one can follow is that direct action should be taken only on issues concerning one’s immediate social environment. This would imply that direct action can take various forms and going on strike is just one of them. Moreover, direct action should be prompted, planned and carried out by and through the people involved without interference and / or any type of extra-constitutional control from outside parties.

While it is true that there are issues on which it is justified to take direct political action, I strongly feel that going on strike is not a valid form of protest for all and sundry issues, specially in a country like India where finding employment in any form is very difficult and the opportunity of having work to do is a great privilege. Striking work should be considered an extreme form of protest to be utilised only in the rarest of the rare case. Furthermore, where this form of protest is carried out, there should be a high level of discipline. What is observed in most strikes is that the hartal days are utilized by a large majority of members as a unpaid holiday and very few people even bother to turn-up at the place of work, let alone spend time outside the premises in protest. The gaggle of picketers are just a handful of the total work-force who are supposed to be on strike. Maybe some market research agency could do a study as to what percentage of the picketers are actually part of the striking work-force and what percentage are hired musclemen.

Strikes as a form of protest was devised to be kind to battle to be carried out against the adversary counter-party. In most cases, specially in Public Sector Undertaking and the Government Departments, there is very little to differentiate between the management and the workers. In such cases striking work is hurting oneself and patently counter-productive. In our country strikes were designed to be a moral high-ground against a foreign agent and such is hardly the case in most situations in India today. Another related issue is that going on strike without thinking out any other form of making an arrangement work (which should be the slated end result) shows the utter bankruptcy of ideas of the political class in providing leadership suited to the times.

5th July 2008: I just came across a quote from Dr. B R Ambedkar which supports my line of thinking. I am giving it below:

"We must abandon the method of civil-disobediance, non-cooperation, and satyagraha. Under an autocratic regime, there might be some justification for them, but not now, when constiutional methods of redress were available".

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