Sunday, February 27, 2011


(New Series No. 151, May '08)


Decision of the Supreme Court of the Gov't of India:

According to Article 23 of the Constitution, if the state or central gov't pays less than the statutory minimum wage to any worker it is considered forced labor. Workers who are paid less than the statutory minimum wage are bonded workers. Bonded labour, getting work done in a fuedal mode, is banned by law and the Indian Constitution.


*IIT Kanpur, Delhi University and Jawarhalal Nehru University are Government of India institutions as well as major centers of knowledge-production.

-In a 1999 survey, some students of IIT Kanpur discovered that none of the contractors on campus were paying the statutory minimum wages to its workers.

-In 2004, 1,500 male and female workers were engaged in construction-repair work worth 28 to 30 crore rupees at twenty places. On the JNU campus, workers in construction, library, gardening, cleaning, cafeterias are hired through contractors. These workers are not paid the statutory minimum wage. Some students, employees, and teachers discovered this fact. In turn, they founded "University Community for Workers Rights."

Afternoon news on All India Radio on May Day. The Government of Delhi has set the daily minimum wage at 140 rupees, but all the workers the AIR correspondent interviewed were only paid 80 to 85 rupees.

-With the emergence of this opposition to bonded labor and fuedal mode of work on JNU's university campus, some students were punished in June 2007.

(Information taken from People's Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) publication "Fettered Lives: A Report on Contract System and Exploitation of Workers in JNU.") Contact PUDR: c/o Sharmila Purkayasth, S. Miranda House, Teachers Flat, Delhi University, Delhi 110007.


*We'll not talk about the extreme shamelessness or the conspiracy of generating a fearsome reality to make people passive… We will also not talk here about bonded workers at brick mills and stone quarries, now and then depicted as 'extraordinary' or unusual. Come, let's take a glance at factory production in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana.

First, let us take a look at the authorized factory areas by their block, sector, phase. Okhla Industrial area in Delhi is such a place. Udyog Vihar in Gurgaon is such a place. Ghaziabad, Noida, Greater Noida in U.P. are major factory areas adjoining Delhi. Faridabad is mostly a city of factories. In factories, situated in unauthorized industrial areas in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana, 70 to 75% of all the workers in factories in authorized industrial areas are not in company documents. They are considered 'illegal workers.' These 70 to 75% of workers are not paid the statutory minimum wage. The statutory minimum wages in Uttar Pradesh is 2,699 rupees. In Haryana, it is 3,535 rupees. In Delhi, it is 3,633.

Among these workers, many are forced to sign in company and gov't documents that they have received statutory minimum wages when they are paid less than that. If one leaves or is kicked out after working for a week or ten days in a factory, payment is not given for that week of work.
In the national capital region spread over Delhi, U.P., and Haryana in registered factories located at authorized sites, 75 to 80% of workers are not paid minimum wages.
In Delhi and Faridabad, there are lots of areas which are not authorized for factory production, but where large numbers of factories exist. Today a significant portion of factory production is taking place in these unauthorized areas. Those who made plans and policies for factories in Okhla, Udyog Vihar, Noida, Faridabad have not allotted any space for worker's housing nearby. In this situation, workers are compelled to live in unauthorized colonies...In these colonies, the destructive dance of workshops and factories continues day and night.
95 to 98% of workers engaged in industrial production are invisible in documents. 90 to 95% of workers engaged in workshops and factories in unauthorized areas of Delhi and Faridabad are not paid the statutory minimum wage.
And to put salt on a wound- there is ‘honararium.’ The Gov't has taken the lead in paying 1/2, 1/3, 1/4th of the statutory minimum wage in the name of paying an honararium rather than what is actually owed.


*Getting work done gratis was the basis of serfdom. Labouring masses have been tied up in many bonds. As a a part of their birthright, those living in forts and palaces extracted a part of the produce from laboring masses. Proponents of the market raised a slogan of opposition to taking things gratis. Traders declared "give with this hand, take with that hand." A new flag of independence. A major portion of serfs were then transformed into artisans-peasants. Representatives of the market left fuedals far behind in cruelty, oppression-exploitation...While they broke many old bonds, they still kept many bonds intact and created many new bonds. The valor of traders who dethroned fuedal mode through slave trade and bonded labour fructified in the making of the world market.

The world market became the basis of production for the market employing wage-labour. World market became the basis of wage-system. The new mode of production denouncing corruption, cruelty, slave trade, indentured labor of traders gave ‘less development’ as a reason for these. Establishing itself through steam, and coal-based machines, this mode declared progress and development as the cure for all ills. Cutting each and every bond, demolishing every shelter, the vehicle of progress-development glorified the free availability of wage workers as 'freedom'. The chariot of progress-development has played such havoc with the earth, oppression-exploitation are extremely pale in front of it.

In a few areas, some workers had slight relief from bonded labour and fuedal bonds. But, increasing numbers of labouring masses began to sink in fathomless whirlpools.

*Serfs transformed into peasants. Artisans became free from fuedal bonds. The illusions of peasant-artisans' freedom through labor produced for the world market...Production for the market employing wage work carries a social death for artisans-peasants.

In these 200 hundred years, production for the market, employing wage work has become world-wide. In these 200 years, the social death and social murder of artisanship-peasantry has been increasing throughout the earth. Increasing numbers of labouring masses have been transformed into wage workers. Ruined peasants. Artisans changing into wage workers. Reducing the demand of wage workers with new, newer machines!

This is the result of the process of progress-development. This process has created a situation today where only one worker is needed, but an hundred are available. This condition increases workers' compulsions to such an extent that there a multitude of workers available for work in any condition. The increasing compulsion of workers does increase pity. Pity is also extremely dangerous for the present social system. All governments, all courts, all big brains are acquainted with the present reality, but they are helpless to confront this reality. Therefore, face to face with bad to worse conditions, workers have to leave aside gov't- courts-big brains and think for themselves about to what to do...

Thursday, February 10, 2011


47 Year Old Doctor

Normally, I have a good deep sleep. I get up naturally. I like waking up. It's not like I think, "Oh, another day has come." The reason for this? Probably, my two decisions- not to take bribes and not to indulge in just anything after duty hours to earn money.

I get up two hours before duty-time. By the time, I brush my teeth and shave, my wife makes tea. While drinking tea, we read the Hindi newspaper together. Then in the toilet, I read the English paper. I glimpse at the headlines. My interest is in reviews or analysis of economic-social issues. If it is not about health, I do not read the editorial. After my bath, I get ready half-an hour before duty time. A woman comes in to clean the house and prepare breakfast. We, husband and wife, while having breakfast together watch the news. If anyone comes to meet us in the morning, we feel inconvenienced.

At the hospital in the morning, there is a tradition where the doctors meet informally. Greetings and casual exchanges take place. Earlier, there used to be discussions of the stock exchange but thankfully, the 1992 scam where doctors lost a lot of money has put an end to the early morning obsessive discussion about money. After the meeting, every one goes to their own department. Routine work-rounds. Gov't health institutions are certainly inadequate. Too much of a workload on doctors and other hospital employees. Indirect wage-cuts are also occurring. Increasing wages is a thing of the past. Now the question is of maintaining the wage you have. These days more and more, the administration treats us as servants of the government where we can be called for work twenty-four hours a day, thirty days out of the month...

For the rural and urban poor, there is absolutely no space to live. At least, they should have a place to die in peace, but political leaders make this impossible. The gov't policy itself is ludicrous- "health at your door." This policy turns us into puppets. The sword of transfers hangs over every gov't employee's head. I have also borne and managed it. Because of proximity to power, I have also exercised some clout. But my conscious efforts have been to not make use of that clout for personal gain. In gov't service, generally there is no scope for specialization. The structure of the 1940's still continues. You're placed anywhere for duty. I absolutely do not like duty in shifts, but have had to do it.

Although, there is an increasing tendency to increase the hours of work, I'm thankful that in the hospitals right now, the doctor's duty is six hours. To deal with hundreds of patients...

Probably, I have become old or aged. I am pained by the increasing tendency amongst doctors to think in money terms- let the patient pay 100, 200, 500 otherwise, delay or ignore the patient! Ten years earlier 30 to 40% doctors considered this way of taking money wrong. Now merely 10 to 15% think so. In medical college, I used to think wherever we are together, we will stop such a tendency. But now I find myself weak, helpless. In these conditions, articulate opposition does not seem to have any meaning.

One-third of doctors in New Zealand are suffering from mental illness. 10% of doctors have dangerous mental diseases. This is the result of tension borne of pressure, of too much work and responsibility. According to a study conducted by Wellington School of Medicine, 441 physicians, 330 surgeons, and 400 pharmacist were included.

Doctors are increasingly becoming money-minded. They consciously take wrong decisions- "there is no need for operation, but operate still because it will make more money"! Desires for car, house, computer, children in costly schools, property...Even after all the dishonesty and cheating, doctors still have difficulties paying installments. Conflict and tension in interpersonal relations has increased.

At two or three p.m., duty is over. Domestic help keeps the food ready. My wife and I have our meals together. In summers, after meals, I sleep for two to two and an half hours. I have no problem in maintaining a regular, daily routine for myself. But where others' company is needed, schedules are irregular. I swim alone, but I cannot play volleyball alone! After duty hours, doctor colleagues get involved in some money-making scheme. Many people keep pushing me to take up some business but I have decided that I need time for myself. I clearly refuse to use my after duty hours time to earn money.

My childhood was one of poverty. During winters, I did not have a sweater. In winter, one must have a sweater. I must not be poor! But I never had a desire for car, bungalow, servants...For my medical college expenses, my family had to mortgage our agricultural land. If the expenses were what they are now, then I wouldn't have gone to medical school. If the bribe of 5 lakhs that is now being taken from doctors to secure employment was being done earlier, I would not have chosen to be in gov't service. My mother has been my inspiration. Around my mother, there used to always be a congregation of women and girls. And she used to cooperate, help, give suggestions about weaving cloth, making good food, dance...Many things are taking place in the world where I can contribute. My heartfelt desire is to make positive contributions. If things improve, I feel good. I enjoy helping people, although my wife does not like this tendency of mine which runs counter to the current pragmatism. My desire is to acquire recognition as a good-hearted, mature person. I absolutely do not like anyone showing pity on me. I do not want recognition on the basis of weakness, but rather on the basis of my good qualities.

In medical college, I had begun to study health problems. My stress has been on community health and treatment. With the community's participation in health matters, corruption and negligence can be easily dealt with. In light of my experience during these years, I find that there is a danger in community participation when it only includes the dominant persons in the community. Again, no space is left for the weaker ones. Health first or social transformation first? Social transformation...But those who have taken contracts to change society- to me, they seem incapable of doing that. They are set establishments. To keep the structure intact is their priority. Therefore, in the arena of social transformation, they are without any importance- I don't see any logic in fighting parties or making friends with them. To overlook them seems proper to me. Practice according to conscience will open up new ways.

After swimming, leisurely walk and games. At 6:30 p.m., I have tea and snacks. Then for some time, t.v. Then I go to the market if necessary. Before dinner, for an hour, I sit with neighbors and chit-chat. Dinner is prepared by my wife. After having dinner at 9 p.m., I watch t.v. till 10:30. At 11 p.m., we sleep.

The rising sun fills my soul with joy. When I have time to take a morning walk, I become reflective. One is surprised that the Indian government did not have absolutely any drug policy until 1987. There is merely an Act in a document which enumerated drugs that could be sold. There is no control of the price of medicines. In 1987, drug price control order was jointly opposed by domestic-foreign, national-multinational drug manufacturing companies. Due to companies' opposition, in 1987, the order covered only 260 medicines. And because of a review that takes place every two years, today merely 80 medicines are covered under the Act. And, do you know what the order says? The printed price of the medicine can be anywhere from 50 to 500% more than the production costs!
Costs = the real cost of the production of the drug + expenses on research + expenses on patent + expenses on brand name.
The difference between a generic name and brand name is itself a wonder. For a fever, the price of a Paractoml medicine is .16 paise. Paractmol is the generic name of the medicine. This Paractmol tablet in its brand name form of Crocin is 56 paise! Propogators of brand-names- film stars, cricket stars- such tactics are very costly for the public.

Production is production. Let's see distribution also. 15 years ago or earlier, company representatives used to give samples to doctors whose evaluation served as the basis for the sale of the medicine. Now, medical representatives do not distribute the samples of medicines. Rather, they manage doctors...If you want a car, get so many lakhs medicine sold, for foreign tour, get so much medicine sold, mobile and expenses, cash! The sponsors of doctors' conferences are drug companies. And, besides companies giving doctors' food and drinks, some doctors arrangements are also made. As a result, 40 to 50% of medicines that private or motivated gov't doctors prescribe are not required for treatment. Half of the medicines given to patients are unnecessary! You'll also be surprised by this- one-thousand patent medicines are available in wholesale at one-third of the price printed on them. I'm not talking about sub-standard or local medicines. Even after supply at one-third of the printed price, patent drug manufacturing companies are ready to give commission for obtaining orders for them! Looting the public's pockets...And free healthcare when the European Union has given the Haryana gov't 20 crore rupees to demolish the very concept of free healthcare. Produce the sentiment that people should pay for their own treatment. Nothing is free, we will have to pay even to die...

Why do we have diseases? Attention is not being paid to this, attention is only on treatment...On the pocket. When I look at technology, computers, then adequate medical arrangements and healthcare seems possible for everyone. But when I look at the social system then...Even then, my desire for improvement does not die. People are not able to live peacefully. Even so, for people to die in peace, I am ready to cooperate with today's helmsmen and to bear their farcical tactics.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011