Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Porters against Progress

The last time you went to the airport, who lugged your trolley around? Yourself. Then why have porters at railway stations to lug your trolley around? So, here is a story about how the Bangalore railway station is introducing trolleys, which, will be pulled by the porters and not by the passengers themselves. Hooray.

The article is worth reading. Firstly porters complaining that wheeled suitcases pushed away their business and that these trolleys are here to take away their livelihood. So, you can be sure that many of these trolleys will be sabotaged soon. Now you will see an article lamenting smooth floors at railway stations.

But think about it for a moment. Are these porters any different from the industrialists who opposed (and still oppose) liberalisation? Are they any different from the Bombay Taxi drivers who still supposedly want to drive their antiquated vehicles? Are they any different from the municipal sweepers who resist the introduction of sweeping machines? Surely, if bullocks could talk, we would have some sort of a protest against the withdrawal of bullock carts too...

The porters are not really railway employees, but in the so called 21st century India the fact that these guys are fighting for jobs such as these speaks volumes of the opportunities missed by our rulers. These guys are an able workforce who would happily work in any factory or industry if they got such jobs. But since such jobs are not around as much as they should be, here they are. Think about it. 65 odd years after a so called independence,  things are exactly as they were under colonial rule. Each station of India supports about 10-20 porters on an average. The total railway stations in India are well in excess of 1000 which means a substantial workforce is here waiting for the next train, literally and figuratively. The train that will never arrive to deliver them a simple, stable livelihood.

As for the railways, almost everything that can be wrong is wrong with the railways. The damn thing is stuck somewhere in the late 18th century and with a minister who cannot think beyond her nose, it will soon become the worlds largest museum in running condition.

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