Thursday, February 04, 2010

"Labour Union" and "Right To Information"(RTI)

This could be one of those blogs which try to link 2 un-linked topics.

Traditionally the "Labour unions" are formed in labour intensive industries to fight for the rights of the labourers. It was(is) believed that the management generally are profit oriented and disregard the concerns of its employees. So the employees ganged up to form a forumn called "union". What started from a finance point of view grew into wider topics - like work envoirnment, health care of labourers, education of labourers children etc. The union would be the interface between the mgmt and the labourers. Union was the mouth of the labourers heart. It got rights to check into the balance sheet of the company and got a pie of the profits into labour welfare schemes. Unions also ensured (by timely discussions and untimely strikes) that the labour laws are adhered to by the company. It's seen as a socialistic model to have unions.

To cut a long story short - Unions created transparency in the mgmt processes and ensured that the policies benefits the labourers. (In someways you could say that its democracy at work).
(Personally I may hate unions, but I indirectly owe a lot to unions of my dad's workplace. Without unions probably my dad would'nt get good salary and hence provide me a good education!)

RTI is a law in India that came into existance in the year 2005. I am sure that many do not appreciate the powerfulness of RTI. I have been part of one of the RTI applications, and I can very well say that it is a good tool. If you want to know what is coming up in a govt owned plot in your locality - approach the local corporation and submit an RTI application. You will get a written answer within a fixed span of time. Govt authorities are entitled to provide a reply to each RTI application. The example given is about the plot right in front of my house. Different political leaders gave different verbal promises on the purpose of this plot based on who asked the question. To get the right answer, RTI is the way to go. Now no politician can bluff his way ahead. The various tenders of Govt right from the Nehruvian era can be questioned now to get facts out. Looking at the big picture, it aims to bring in transparency on the functioning of the govt and hopefully reduce corruption. After the Sant Chatwal conterversy, Vir Sanghvi posted his RTI application about the Padma awards selection criteria. On this aspect, the Govt would be careful to have a clear process in place from atleast next year onwards. Isnt this transparency?

Do you see a link now? Transparency!!

Ofcourse both unions and RTI have their own pitfalls (No process is perfect...the great LEAN process of Toyota seems to fail them now). Union leaders have become corrupt and management take them on their side at times. Frivolous RTI applications kill the essence of RTI. RTI (like Lokayukta) is under the govt and may be amended to suit the Govt. But lets look into the positives.

In the age of "Clear Enterprise", RTI is a model to be followed by all Govts of world providing "Clear Governance". India has set an example here. Proud of that!

Basically the Unions question the management, RTI questions the Govt. And that's damn good.
Wondering about the origins..Socialism -> Transparency -> Democracy or Democracy ->Transparency->Socialism...
Why wonder ? Enjoy the great Indian democracy :-)

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