Dignity of labour in India

3rd April 2019 at 8:00 am

“Every person has the right to work with dignity” is a statement that we have heard or read at some point of our education. Thanks to our Indian obsession with engineering, graduating as an engineer from any other college than IITs, NITs and some reputed private universities is considered an under achievement by our friendly neighbors and super caring relatives (pun intended) who are more interested in numbers (ranks and marks) than mental well-being of kids.

This very obsession with certain job profiles has created a large pool of engineers who are struggling to find jobs today.  Young students who are excited by the very thought of fields like art, music, dance, sports, politics, armed forces and so on are forced to attend training classes not to crack the IIT or any other entrance, but to get into an institute that in turn offers training to crack the main entrance exam. On the other hand, it is the bitter truth that our country is unable to create jobs for the number of students who pass out every year from different streams. The news of around 250 odd PhD scholars applying for a peon job makes this argument even stronger.

Yet people once again take the liberty to complain that India is unable to produce talent. The few, who manage to follow their passion and become what they wanted to, are not treated with the same dignity that an engineer or an employee in the govt. service would enjoy, given our colonial past. Thanks to social media and video sharing platforms, some really talented and budding photographers, artists, singers and musicians are being recognized every year.

If this is the case with people who have at least managed to get some jobs, imagine the condition of people who were/are rather unfortunate and could not afford any kind of education. Every now and then there are cases of violence against domestic helps, drivers, watchmen, the daily wage laborers and the list goes on. No person on this earth wants to do those chores by choice. They do it only because they never got an opportunity to do better. A point to remember is that children of the same people who have been once considered low status at a point of time have toiled hard to become business magnates, scientists, IAS officers, Prime Ministers even.

To give you a glimpse of our double standards, let me draw your attention to a simple scenario. How do people treat waiters in restaurants? Would a waiter at a regular hotel get the same treatment as a smartly dressed waiter who greets you in English at a 5 star hotel? It is clearly evident that branding and etiquette has a role to play here. We go to supermarkets and buy vegetables at a fixed price but bargain with poor street vendors even though they sell for less compared to the supermarkets.

Why should physical work be considered low status? Why are we ready to clean utensils and willing to work at filling stations in western countries but treat people with the same profession here without any dignity and respect? Why are well educated people employing child labour? These are some of the many disturbing questions that we have to ask ourselves.

Have you ever given a thought to what would happen if these wonderful people stop doing their jobs? It is never too late. Let’s try to do some honest introspection. No occupation is superior. We are all entitled to the right to equality aren’t we?

Let’s respect all occupations and pave the way for a society with mutual respect.