THE middle-order professionals-turned-intellectuals grudge their ‘vulgar’ salaries and complain that in spite of being handsomely paid, the modern urban middle-class youth neglect their old parents in the twilight years of their life-a perfidy no one could dare commit in their days even while making do with a fraction of that fabulous salary. “We used to find time not only for our parents but also for some social work, and raised the family in a decent honourable way, getting these brats educated at expensive public schools to make a man out of them and that too in a fraction of the salary now they draw. And just see how they behave. No time even for us-their parents-let alone the civic society or the nation. Are they not expected to pay back the debt that they owe to the society and their old parents?” they ask.
Ruling class politicos have their own grouses against these poor souls. They envy their seven-eight figure pay cheque. Corporate Affairs Minister Salman Khursheed once advised the private sector companies to refrain from paying ‘vulgar’ salaries to their employees because the ruling political class was then observing the austerity measures. He said, “I think when we are working on this (austerity), we can hardly say we (will) shut our eyes on what salary CEOs are going to make.” Very obviously a part of his observation was meant for public consumption to impress upon the people that the good-intentioned government is on austerity drive. While this is well within the domain of common knowledge that the so-called ‘austerity measures’ of the political class invariably has a miserably short life, in the instant case the rigor mortis started appearing even before the common citizenry could be sufficiently impressed by the politicos’ sacrifices!
Further, the so-called austerity measures do not make any dent in the perks, privileges and host of other fabulous freebees, perquisites and facilities, the politicians in position in the government (and many others not even there) routinely enjoy and/or otherwise just easily usurp at will. These perquisites etc. come in varied forms, shapes and sizes. (Recently, in Delhi a different kind of bug has bitten these privileged souls. They got enamoured by the elegance and beauty of the recently built and modern-style fully-furnished luxurious apartments at the Commonwealth Games Village near Akshardham temple. Now they are coveting them. No prizes for concluding that it’s a matter of time only that they got them all dirt cheap, possibly with a generous government loan at very low interest rate on temptingly favourable terms! No eyebrows will be raised and the mainstream media, in all probabilities, will just be looking the other way.) Can anybody, howsoever vulgarly paid he or she may be in a private sector company, be an envy of anyone belonging to this exalted club of the highly privileged and hugely powered VIPs who are the virtual monarch of all that they survey-fully entitled to possess what they covet.
Unfortunately, it is conveniently forgotten that in the private sector not only the so-called big salaries but also miserably low salaries come at a big price; so big that even a thought of paying it in those suffocating terms would send shivers down the delicate spine of any Scotch-guzzling politicians used to almost free-of-cost living in a palatial cozy, wall-to-wall carpeted, air-conditioned government bungalow and not possessing even a fraction of the educational qualifications of IIM/IIT post-graduate 24x7ers-the poor fellows have no time for their personal lives. Has anybody who is somebody ever spared a thought for them? Will things ever get better for them?
So many demands from as many quarters are made on the time, energy and money of these poor souls who have to negotiate at an average more than 60 km each way to their work and back, driving through the traffic jams and snarls-up on thickly congested accident-prone metro roads and highways, braving incidences of possible road rages and accidents, working in an employee-hostile, suffocating environment most part of the day through to midnight and then return to home fully-loaded with the shop-floor, assembly-line and office worries only to rush back to work next, or perhaps, the same day, as the next day rarely, if ever, occurs in their case. Their plight and perplexion would be comparable with that of the God in the 1st World War catchphrase: “God strafe England, God save the king. God this, God that, God the everything_.” Already their life is hellish-the grotesque and rapid urbanisation further rendering it unbearably stressful and miserable. They are a much frustrated lot. If at all a day breaks for them, it would be loaded with lots of frustration and trepidation. If a study conducted on them is to be believed, 95 per cent of the highly qualified techies with jobs in the private sector in Delhi are so much stressed out that they are rendered permanently incapacitated to lead a normal family life before they attain the age of 35 years. In case of the young professionals working in private sector in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, this process of dysfunction, the study revealed, would set on anytime before they attain the age of 40, 45, and 50 years respectively. Some consolation! Maybe or may not be. All 24x7ers are susceptible to developing cardio-vascular diseases and diabetes at a far more early age. It is, however, beyond me to fathom on what basis Smt Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi, wants us to believe that of all the metros in India (or for that matter any other city in the country), Delhi is the most livable?
There is, therefore, an urgent need of government intervention in organising and regulating this semi-organised sector. Proper rules and regulations, regulating the work conditions, as also the salaries, of all the private sector employees-from CEOs of the multinationals right down to the assembly-line officers! workers-should be framed and strictly enforced.
The Minister would have done a commendable and constructive job and earned our heartfelt gratitude had he intervened with an Act of Parliament regulating the work conditions and salaries of private, semi-organised and unorganised sector employees, which is very much overdue now. Its need cannot be overemphasised in view of both-the ‘vulgar’ and the frustrating, stressful nature of work, insecurity of job and worker-hostile, and at times, appalling and inhuman terms and conditions of work that renders the life and living of those working in these sectors a veritable hell.
(The writer can be contacted at C-1-A, 42 B MIG Flats, Janakpuri, New Delhi-110 058)