Last week happened to give workers a chain of long holidays (around 11 days including some leave thrown in). It has made many intellectuals, journalists and civil society activists so unhappy that they have severely criticized the practice of giving a holiday for every festival and anniversary of national leaders. They have gone to the extent of even questioning the logic of granting a holiday on October 2, which is the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. They suggest that on October 2, workers should be asked to put in two more hours rather than giving them a paid holiday! Something funny?
Why are these people so sour? They say the public is inconvenienced due to closure of offices and banks etc. However, the real cause lies elsewhere.These privileged class people are inconvenienced so much due to break in service for a day or some days when “domestic servants” or the maid servant is on leave that the whole family suffers an uncontrollable rise in blood pressure. Servant absence means no cleaning of dishes, no morning tea/coffee, no cleaning of the home/flat and no food. When it is more than a day, the situation gets really complicated- one can’t go to restaurants every day or get that pizza for dinner or boil rice to manage somehow along with bread & butter. It disrupts the whole schedule and it is this disruption that makes them write to the prime minister and newspapers voicing their indignation at such a waste of national production.Our high class people are so used to these privileges that they try to impose their will not only on our law enforcement agencies but even in foreign countries where they are representing the country.They consider the domestic servant services as a status symbol but indulge in the old practice of labour without payment or under-payment. They recount every little favour they do the servant but have no memory of the various free services rendered by the servant like putting in hours of extra work daily or chores outside the defined tasks of the help or maid.All complainants of the holidays are in conflict with the law for not paying the minimum wages prescribed under the law and overtime payment etc.Left to these 21st century Nazis or communists, all these workers would be sent to concentration camps or labour camps, where they will be “taught” the work culture. Such an attitude is ingrained from the past.
The old world had no concept of paid labour or fair wages, what to talk of paid holidays. India has discontinued the practice of “begar” (free labour) as late as 1950. Slavery is a painful fact of human history. All that a worker got paid for his labour was whip lashes, chaining and starvation and torture, even death.The Lords & their Ladies took it as their Divine Right to treat the workers in such unfair manner.Thanks to industrialization this ugly practice experienced attack on it for the first time. Wages got fixed, holidays were negotiated and paid holidays became a reality. Workers of the world have earned their holidays after centuries of struggle, sacrifice and suffering.For those who work, rest and rejuvenation are a must. Nobody should grudge them holidays. Instead people must learn and practice doing their own work and pay for the services on the same basis they pay per plate for the food ordered in a restaurant or pizzas ordered over the internet ! Will they crib about workers paid holidays? I am sure they will volunteer to send their servants, maids, help, workers and labour on holidays liberally, frequently and regularly.
So far as government offices are concerned, all utilities work 24×7. They are essential services. Hospitals, water supply, electricity etc are all essential. Top managements are engaged on assignments that are never ending. People might not be aware but it is a fact that many officers take leave only to clear all their pending work. This leave is leave in name, but one works very hard during such leave undisturbed by routine work, meetings and visitors. Rest of others need only a few hours a day because they are mostly under-worked. In fact, countries which have made it a three days week for their employees have done so after detailed studies on the subject. In India, we started with 6 days a week and then gave second saturday off and now are better served since it has become a five days a week.Three days a week will save millions per day in the form of less electricity and water etc. As we proceed to make India Digital, neither the citizen nor the employee will need to visit or sit in an office.In fact, quality of service will be superior. Take the communication with the PM or his ministers after Narendra Modi assumed office. It is possible on line. Education in India will have to be MOOC. Consulting the doctor would be possible through facility like the Skype. What government service will not be within the reach of the citizen in the most convenient way via the internet?
The critics of the long holidays must realize that it is a statement to end begar or unpaid labour, end of tyranny of the employer and fair wages.It is a way to uplift the spirits of the workers, who have suffered long fear of the loss of wages. The workers could not take even sick leave without losing their day’s wage. The system can’t pay cash to every worker, but can certainly grant paid holidays. There is no ground to forfeit this right from the workers. So, we must join in celebrating this victory of the workers. Is it only a ploy to say “work is worship” or do we subscribe to this article of faith?