Sir — Murli Manohar Joshi, the human resources development minister, as if to prove the age-old links between power and politics, is unwilling to let go of any opportunity to augment the power he already wields (“Joshi prefers IIMs on crutches”, August 25). But it is strange that while political leaders never tire of promising the country progress and development, Joshi is moving off the beaten track. In fact, he has decided he wants to dictate the functioning and curb the powers of the Indian management institutes rather than assist their educational programmes. Knowing full well that there is no better way of curbing the autonomy of these premier institutes than by controlling their financial aid, Joshi has targeted precisely that. The changes proposed in the curriculum of the IIMs would seriously compromise their excellence, making them much like the mushrooming engineering colleges, to which students seek admission regardless of the quality of education provided. What kind of students does Joshi see benefiting from his “brilliant” idea'
Sanghamitra Basu, Calcutta
Work more, strike less
Sir — Ashok Mitra’s article, “Messiah in residence” (August 22), argues that the Indian citizen’s right to strike is a fundamental right. Mitra, like a true communist, overlooks the case of all those who are not organized under the umbrella of trade unions, such as the self-employed, unemployed, pensioners, or housewives. How are they to exercise this right, since they have nobody from whom they might collectively withdraw their labour' The right to strike turns out to belong exclusively to a certain category of workers.
Most of the workers in the unorganized sectors today are of the opinion that strikes benefit those who are already economically secure, rather than the poor and the needy. Mitra should realize that even the most socialist of governments would not meet the demand for the right to strike, because it would amount to putting into the hands of the working class weapons capable of breaking the monopoly of the ruling class.
Surajit Basak, Calcutta
Sir — In his article, Ashok Mitra cites several instances which expose the asymmetrical stance regularly adopted by the nation’s highest judiciary.
The news report, “Five-star jail for criminal netas”(August 22), is one of the numerous examples of the lack of symmetry in the Indian politics, where undertrials are denied basic human dignity and remanded in overcrowded prisons, while the convicted netas enjoy five-star facilities in the same prisons.
If the Supreme Court wants to prove writers like Mitra wrong, it should immediately restore equal treatment in prisons.
Kajal Chatterjee, Sodepur
Sir — Since there are no injunctions similar to the Supreme Court’s order on strikes for lock-outs, closures, exploitation of farm workers and child labourers, or price-hike, the prevailing imbalance and inequality in society is unlikely to get corrected. After having been amply rewarded by the Supreme Court for her bold stand, J. Jayalalithaa should, as Mitra points out, pay greater attention towards arresting the sandalwood and ivory brigand, Veerappan, who has been getting away scot-free for all these years.
Phani Bhusan Saha, Balurghat
Sir — Ashok Mitra is right in observing that the fundamental rights enumerated in the Constitution are contrary when seen as a whole. The Constitution guarantees Indians the fundamental right to live but not the right to work. It is difficult to resolve the dichotomy between living but being without livelihood.
Sujit De, Sodepur
Sir — The judgment of the Supreme Court that government employees do not have the right to strike work has given a strong blow to the fundamental concepts of democracy which includes the right to protest.
Could the Supreme Court not have confined its orders to the legality or otherwise of the specific case, that of the strike by Tamil Nadu government employees, rather than going into the larger question of moral rights' The judgment also discriminates between government employees and those working in the other sectors. What about banning the routine “walk outs” by the political parties in Parliament and assemblies' Does it not amount to strike as well, stalling important legislative work and draining the exchequer'
Harchandan Singh, Calcutta
Sir — Few good moves in India are greeted with all-round applause. The Supreme Court judgment on strikes has not been either. Government employees, perhaps the most privileged group of workers, have no justification for striking work. It is just one more way of enjoying some paid holidays. They were beginning to believe that no authority in the country could penalize them. This cover of complacence has been ripped off for good.
Debjani Sinha, Calcutta
Sir — By her ruthless enforcement of existing laws, the chief minister of Tamil Nadu has been able to drive home to the highly unionized yet shirking labour force in India the message that the state can no longer be taken for granted in the settlement of disputes between employers and employees.
Since the suppression of the all-India railway strike in 1974-75 by Indira Gandhi, no other minister has been able to display so much boldness in handling a similar situation. The Supreme Court has with good reason lent her all its support. By arguing against the judgment, writers like Ashok Mitra are only serving to direct public opinion in the wrong direction.
Sadhan K. Samanta, Burdwan
Sir — For the progress of a nation, the development of work culture is very important. The sooner strikes can be curbed, the faster will be the rise in efficiency. The Supreme Court has merely made a contribution in taking the country one step ahead.
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore