The Chief Minister observed that the practice, which all the trade unions in the state had agreed to end, has now been reported from several places.

Kerala CM condemns gawking wages during COVID-19 lockdownImage for representation
news Labour Monday, April 13, 2020 - 20:08

Nokkukooli or gawking wages, a condemned practice in Kerala when head loaders used to charge money for gawking or staring at people loading or unloading cargo, appears to be coming back in the state during the COVID-19 lockdown. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan who has earlier come down heavily on the practice, condemned an incident in Thiruvalla when workers in a lorry bringing sunflower demanded nokkukooli.

“All organised trade unions had earlier agreed to end the practice in Kerala. There was also an understanding that actions will be taken against those who failed to comply,” the CM said.

It cannot be tolerated now, the Chief Minister said and added the police have been instructed to take strict action against those found demanding the unfair wages. “It is not a one off incident either. It’s been reported from several other places where goods were being unloaded. Those engaging in this practice should stop doing it. Only the payment one deserves should be asked for. Do not wish for anything unnecessary,” he said.

Nokkukooli was earlier practiced in several parts of Kerala, when head load workers would watch goods being unloaded from or loaded into trucks and still demand payment just because it happened in the places they are active in. Even if all the work is done by the owner of the goods, the workers had to have their share. On the other hand if they did the work too, the charges would be very high.

In early 2018, after an expatriate businessman called Sugathan took his life following an incident involving the CPI’s youth wing, Pinarayi Vijayan made a statement against the practice of nokkukooli in the Kerala Assembly. He had then said that the trade union representatives would be called upon to put an end to the practice. 

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