Hardly two days had passed since the Kerala High Court ordered the state to stop the practice of nokku-kooli (“gawking wages” literally), a mob of communist trade union activists stopped a truck of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday, allegedly demanding wages. An employee of ISRO Rajeswari, tasked with ensuring the offload of the cargo before noon, said that the miscreants demanded money to allow the vehicle into the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) facility in Thumba.
The woman employee of ISRO said that the cargo was so heavy that it could not be offloaded with the use of only hydraulic systems. Despite this, she said, the communist workers wanted money for moving the cargo with their hydraulic systems. She said since the time the VSSC was set up after acquiring land of the local residents, a practice of paying the trade union affiliates whenever goods arrive has been the norm.
The worker hoped this practice would stop and said she would lodge a police complaint. She said a labour officer had visited the scene and talked to the people. Government and senior police officials intervened to resolve the issue, she said.
Police said they had received a complaint from ISRO at around 11 AM, based on which they reached the spot and found the workers blocking the truck.
On reaching the spot, the cops encountered leaders and activists of CITU, the trade union of the ruling CPI(M) leading the extortion bid.
Nokku-kooli is a euphemism used in Kerala locally for extortion by organised labour unions.
Two days ago, hearing a plea filed by a businessman from Kollam over the issue, the Kerala High Court had said that the rights of the headload workers should be protected legally and petitions seeking action on those demanding nokku-kooli were on the rise.
“The practice of nokku-kooli is damaging the image of Kerala. It should be eradicated. It gives out wrong perceptions about the state. Meanwhile, the rights of the headload workers should also be protected,” the court said.
On 1 May 2018, the state government had banned the practice.