In an unusual turn of events, members of the CITU (trade union affiliated to the CPI(M), have apologised to Malayalam actor Sudheer Karamana and returned Rs 25,000 extracted from the actor as ‘Nokku kooli’ or gawking wages.
Nokku kooli is a practice supported by trade unions in Kerala, where head load workers demand payment for merely watching the goods get loaded or unloaded, while industrialists or merchants or common householders use their own labour for the work.
In a Facebook post about the incident, the actor shared that the workers had expressed deep regret and the trade union leadership that intervened said they will ensure such incidents do not occur again.
“Since the culprits have been under suspension for the past 10 days, their families have been unable to make ends meet. Stating this, they requested the issue to be resolved quickly and even returned the Rs 25,000 they had extracted from me earlier,” Sudheer wrote in his post.
The actor became a victim of the gawking wages tradition when a vehicle carrying granite slabs for his house being constructed on Thiruvananthapuram- Chaaka bypass, was intercepted by load workers last week.
The workers first demanded Rs 1,00,000 as gawking wages. A war of words ensued between the workers and staff members of the company that brought the slabs.
Sudheer, who had not been in town that morning, came in by noon and tried to negotiate with the workers. Finally, they agreed to settle for Rs 25,000 as gawking wages.
The actor, however, protested with the Left leadership, who intervened and promised help.
A few days ago, 14 CITU workers from the Arashummoodu unit were suspended.
“The incident which took place right after CM Pinarayi Vijayan’s announcement on banning gawking charges, unfortunately received a lot of flak and was reportedly widely by the media,” the actor stated.
Praising the government’s efforts in curbing the menace of gawking wages, the actor said, “Kerala Government’s stance is inspiring and has potential to herald a new work culture in the trade union."
The actor also thanked other political parties for intervening in the issue.
“My only request is that this experience that I have undergone should not happen again,” the actor added in the post.
Sudheer got relief as the incident had been widely reported by the media, but there have been many who have not been as lucky as him. Though successive governments have promised to abolish the practice, the menace continues.