The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rally as a job, for rum and a roast
All full-time' A rally in Chennai

Thiruvananthapuram, May 18: A Malayali has found a single solution to two problems Kerala and Bengal share.

V.K. Devarajan has people willing to embrace the profession of a rally worker queuing up before his door after he published an advertisement in a Malayalam newspaper.

Kerala has a large number of educated unemployed, as does Bengal. It also has a hoary culture of rallies, as does its eastern brother ' both with a history of strong Left activism.

Devarajan said at least 250 people had called in the first two days after the ad came out on Sunday, drawn by the promise of “attractive remuneration” and perks.

One young man was willing to join any rally, even a violent one, provided he was given a 350-ml bottle of rum and a roast chicken as wage. Rally and rum ' before or/and after ' has a nice ring to it.

Not all of the applicants, their ages range from 20 to 60, may be so undemanding and would likely ask for payment in cash, too, for their labour.

The rally workers’ profession, if and when it does take off, could soon become the target of feminists as a vocation created only for males.

Among the 250 applicants, there is not a single woman.

Kerala has nearly 3 million educated unemployed youths registered for jobs with government employment exchanges. Even those who work in the private sector prefer to call themselves “unemployed” until they land government or “respectable” jobs. Manual jobs are absolute no-nos.

Much the same in Bengal, with regional variations for “respectable”, though some taboos ' business as an occupation is one ' are gradually disappearing.

In Kerala, con artists often make a killing by placing recruitment ads for “respectable” jobs and vanish with millions of rupees collected as caution deposit.

Devarajan said he hit upon the idea of recruiting professional agitators after watching for years the practice of political parties hiring workers in exchange for a daily wage and refreshments to join rallies.

“This has been going on, on the sly. Everyone knows this. The same faces appear in different rallies,” said Devarajan, who, at 70 years, runs the Janaseva Ashram for hiring domestic helps and nurses.

Having been a state committee member of the Kerala Congress (Mani), Devarajan should know.

The thousands, even lakhs, who swarm into Calcutta on big rally days also make it a point to take a quick trip on the Metro and take in some of the other sights.

“If there is such a need for rally workers, why not a professional agency that supplies them at short notice'” Devarajan argues.

Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamul Congress could not be reached for comment, but she does often require to announce rallies and bandhs at short notice.

“It’ll be a service since many rally workers now have to content with paltry advance payment. Once the rally is over, organisers disappear,” said Devarajan.

Although it’s not clear what he will do when there is a rally drought with the “workers” he takes on his books, Devarajan does seem to be seriously pursuing his business idea.

Next week, he plans to place another ad, seeking placements for rally hands and offering to lend their services to whoever is ready to pay. The identity of professional rally workers will be kept confidential.

The season for rallies is around the corner, too. Kerala goes into elections next year. So does Bengal. Devarajan may want a franchise in Bengal, depending on the success of his maiden venture.

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