Disappointed by continuing instances of 'nokku kooli' or gawking wages, the Kerala High Court on Thursday, October 7, said such incidents were giving the state a reputation of "militant trade unionism", which was deterring investors from coming to the state and therefore, such practices should be eradicated. The court said it no longer wants to hear the term nokku kooli in the state and directed the police to take action against anyone, irrespective of party affiliations, who demands gawking wages as the same was "illegal and unlawful".
The observation and directions by Justice Devan Ramachandran came during the hearing of a hotel owner's plea for police protection to carry out his business without intervention from some persons who were allegedly demanding gawking wages. Observing that the state "has a reputation of militant trade unionism", the court said the situation has to change to make Kerala investor-friendly.
Nokku kooli refers to loading, unloading and supervision charges demanded by workers even though they are not assigned for that particular work. Though the Kerala government had in 2018 banned this practise, that had been followed for many years, it still continues to persist in many parts of the state with the backing of trade unions.
Meanwhile, the High Court also said that violence was not the solution or remedy for denial of employment and any head load worker who is denied a job must approach the labour board for relief. It also reiterated that incidents like the demand for 'nokku kooli' by a section of people to allow a truck of Indian Space Research Organisation into the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre facility at Thumba in Thiruvananthapuram were a source of embarrassment and disgrace for the state.
The court had earlier also said if the state government wants to attract businesses, it should stop the trade unions from extortion. "This practice was banned years ago. But it was not fully implemented. The government should take stern action against those who demand nokku-kooli," the court had said.