As if the embarrassment of industries fleeing, rampant gold smuggling and spiralling new Covid-19 cases was not enough, the trade union members in Kerala on Sunday demanded Rs 10 lakhs from an ISRO truck to let it pass.
Reportedly, a truck carrying heavy equipment en route to Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), a wing of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), was blocked by a group of workers in Thiruvananthapuram demanding “gawking charge”.
The truck was stranded for over four hours as the local goons from trade unions demanded a hefty ransom to let it enter the VSSC facility at Thumba. The matter was settled with the intervention of the CM office, labour minister V Sivankutty and police officers, including the Commissioner of the Thumba Police Station.
The truck was carrying some heavy machinery for the ISRO centre.
Interestingly, the behaviour of the local goons seemed normalised in the state as the truck was allowed to pass only after several rounds of negotiations, talks and protests. A labour ministry official assured that strict action will be taken against labour leaders who provoked the union workers and locals.
Kerala HC slammed the state for ‘gawking charge’ practice
Interestingly, the incident was reported just days after the Kerala High Court slammed the state government for failing to restrict the practice of “gawking charge” despite a ban.
“I find that complaints relating to demand for gawking charges have been coming before this Court on a regular basis. This is surprising because I am aware that the Government has already issued an order banning such demand from any Trade Union. Nokkukooli is tarnishing the image and spreading misconceptions about the State,” slammed Justice Devan Ramachandran.
The Court now called for the effective implementation of the ban on Nokkukooli which was already imposed by the state in 2018. The practice was followed widely even amidst the pandemic last year.
Among the trade unions that employ their goons to demand this “gawking charge”, the CPM controlled Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) is most prominent, as per reports.
What is Nokkukooli?
‘Gawking charge’ or Nokkukooli is a normalised practice in Kerala where organized labour unions extort money from individuals or businesses to allow them to load unload their belongings.
It literally means charging money for “gawking” or staring at people loading or unloading cargo. The practice has caused a lot of nuisance to common people, high profile individuals and businesses. From shifting houses to transporting goods for marriage to business shipments or even construction, everyone has had to pay hefty sums for Nokkukooli to registered trade unions, members of which just come and “gawk”.
In a sad state of affairs, the lower-middle-class families depend on local labourers and autorickshaw drivers to move household articles from one location to another to escape the extortion by the labour unions.
This practice is basically organised extortion by trade unions and local Leftist goons in the communist-ruled state.