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The Indian postal department, which is the largest postal network in the world, seems to be in utter chaos after the proclamation of an indefnite strike by various postal workers unions. Although letters are no more widely used as a medium to communicate, thousands of passports, job appointment letters are all awaiting delivery. Parcel services through the RMS (Railway Mail Services) has also stopped. The workers are in the streets demanding justice for the under paid GDS (Gramin Daak Sevak) staff and to implement the Kamlesh Chandra committee recommendations. The ongoing strike for the last eleven days has certainly caused discomfort to the public, but the exploitation of more than 2.5 lakh GDS staff by the Government of India soon needs to come to an end.
The GDS workers are the back born of the Indian Postal department. In 1959, the Government of India had ordered for the recognizing of Extra Department (E.D) agents (later renamed as GDS) as civil servants, but the order was revoked after the shadow of a decree from the Madras High Court. Later in the Supreme Court judgement on 22nd April 1977, the court clearly stated that “E.D Agents have been declared as holders of civil posts for the purpose of protections and safeguards in article 311(2)” but little effort is put by the government to improve the living standards of the GDS workers. During the fifth pay commission in 1995, Indian government formed a committee headed by Justice Charanjith Talwar to study the grievances of GDS workers, massive struggles were made for the implementation of the committee report during that time, but it didn’t bear fruit.
India is not the first nation to witness widespread agitation from the postal workers. In the year 1970 during the tenure of Richard Nixon, the 37th president of the United States of America (USA), the country was rocked by the unassailable struggle by the postal workers. President Nixon’s order to ‘get back to work’ was violated and that outrage erupted to different parts of the nation by which the workers were able to procure their demands.
But in the world’s largest democracy,majority of postal workers live a miserable life even in the 21st century. As part of the seventh pay scale commission, Kamlesh Chandra Committee was appointed to look into the matter by the central government. The major recommendations of the report which was submitted on November 16 2015 involves an increase in the minimum wage of GDS workers to RS 10000/- per month, and maximum pay up to RS 35480/- per month. A provision for 26 weeks of maternity leave for women and an introduction of education allowance for children of the GDS worker up to RS 6000/- per annum. The minimum working hour is recommended to be increased from three to four hours and point system of workload for Branch Post Masters (BPM) to be abolished.
The postal workers unions like AIPEU (All India Postal Employees Union)GDS, FNPO(Federation of National Postal Organistions), AIDGSU(All India Gramin Daak Sevak Union) and other regional postal organisations of various states are in the forefront of this ongoing battle against the government’s lack of interest in the implementation of the report. ”The strike is going on for the last ten days, no positive response has been given by the postal department or the central government. Even after waiting for 18 months, the seventh pay scale amendments hasn’t been implemented, while for all other public sector departments it was implemented within a period of 8 months” told P. Panduranga Rao , General Secretary of AIPEU-GDS to Indian Ruminations(IR). SS Mahadeviah, the General Secretary of AIGDSU told IR that “..discrimination is happening in all aspects of a GDS worker’s life. ‘Equal work Equal pay’ is not followed, we are doing 8 hours work and we need 8 hours pay. The allowances are too less as compared to a regular postal employee, even pension is denied for us”
There is also a strong criticism on major postal workers unions that they have not taken the grievances of GDS workers with all its seriousness, but ultimately the responsibility is upon the Department of Posts, The ministry of Communication and the Government of India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised the people of India that ‘Ache din aane wale hai’ which translates exactly the same as the assurance U.S President Richard Nixon gave to the postal workers that “better days are coming” in 1969 , a year before the postal strike in USA . History repeats itself! At a juncture when unemployment rate is increasing in the nation, the manner at which government deals with the public sector is alarming. Even after decades long struggle the situation of GDS workers remain unchanged. The present government is answerable to the pain that is suffered by the people of the country, the government is also obliged to implement the Kamlesh Chandra Committee recommendations at the earliest and put an end to the indefinite strike by the postal employees.
It seems to be there is no end for the witch hunt on Al Jazeera . Although the Doha based television network is owned by Qatari royal family, its unique content, style and coverage of news with stunning visuals makes it different from rest of the media around the world. Many people view Al Jazeera as an alternative medium which represents the voices of the people who are deliberately silenced, but the political situation in Middle East appears to be alarming for Al Jazeera.
It has been more than a month since Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan banned Al Jazeera accusing the news network to be promoting terrorism. Complete closure of the television news network was one among the thirteen demands put forward by Saudi Arabia and its allies upon Qatar. Al Jazeera was accused last month of inciting violence in Jerusalem by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Sunday, Israeli Minister for communication Ayoub Kara announced in a press conference in Jerusalem that Israel is planning to revoke the media credentials of Al Jazeera TV journalists, shut down its Jerusalem bureau and to not allow Al Jazeera broadcast via local cable and satellite providers.
Al Jazeera claims that it share common journalistic ethos in its both Arabic and English channels, but there are critics who view Al Jazeera Arabic as more radical in its coverage. In Middle East, the television news network broke the conventional notion of reporting official narratives of a story and independently reported the alternative perspectives of the issues. Saudi Arabia launched the news channel ‘Al Arabia’ calling it a ‘modern alternative to Al Jazeera’ in 2003, but it couldn’t grow up to the expectations. The ruthless assault against Al Jazeera came to the fore from post ‘Arab spring’ protests, the support given by the news network for those protests provoked many nations in the Middle East. In Egypt, three of the Al Jazeera journalists were jailed alleging them for helping “terrorist organizations”.
Al Jazeera has always been bold in dealing with attacks over its freedom of expression by the authoritarian states. Every undemocratic and brutal attack upon the news network till date has only made it stronger. But the present scenario is more vast and complex, it is an organized campaign which is going on to malign, threaten and intimidate the news network. Al Jazeera is one of the most watched satellite television news networks in the world, yet the voices of solidarity for Al Jazeera seems to be less in number. The crisis that we face today is not about agreeing or disagreeing with Al Jazeera, but about our duty to stand for their right to freedom of press.
The 8th Edition of International Theatre Festival of Kerala (ITFOK) which showcased plays from different parts of the world , starting from legendary choreographer Chandralekha’s last creation ‘ Sarira’ and ended with award winning solo play ‘Dhoda Dhyan Se’ by Mallika Taneja , ITFOK 2016 depicted human body as an entity other than viewing it as a tool to limn our society. ITFOK 8 tried to seek new dimensions of ‘Body’ ‘Political’ and ‘Body Political’ aspects in theatre.The time has come for more exploration into the world of theatre. The brand new edition of ITFOK will certainly make you fall in love with theatre.
ITFOK 2017 , the edition 9 is packed with a total of 66 performances including 16 international , 7 regional along with 4 traditional performances. The 9 day long festival is all set to break the dramatic conventions in theatre. ITFOK 9 will have a special focus on street theatre, the performances this year happens in most unlikely venues ranging from swimming pool to children’s park , Thrissur. Street theatre as always alter our modes of perception , it may constantly confronts,amazes and can even annoy the audience. It approaches directly to the people breaking all the formal barriers between artists and audience. “The mark of this edition of ITFOK is the variousness in the languages of theatre impacting upon the variousness of spaces. One of the focuses of this year’s festival is the intervention of street performances in public spaces and how this range of street art practices mediate and engage with the daily” tells artistic director Abhilash Pillai.
Highlights from DAY 01
ITFOK 2017 had its official inauguration at Kerala Sangeetha Nadaka Academy. Minister of Culture A.K Balan inaugurated the 9th edition of ITFOK. ‘Ammannur Puraskaram’ which honour distinguished theatre personalities, an award instituted by KSNA in 2010 has been brought back. Hesinam Sabitri , most notable personality in manipuri theatre and one of the greatest actors of Indian theatre today along with late Heisnam Kanhilal founder director of Kalakshetra Manipur were the winners of ‘Ammannur Puraskaram’ this year.The award carries three lakh rupees and a statue designed by B.D Dathan.
‘The Lost Wheels of Time’ (60′ , Clown Show) by ‘Serious Clowns’ Germany was the inaugural play of the ITFOK 9. A German-Israel production performed in an outdoor theatre was like a philosophical reflection of contradictions in this world , portrayed with the help of two cartoon like charecters , the play was created and performed by Adam Read and Fyodor Makarov. ‘UDAL URAVU UTIREZHUTU UDALEDUPPU’ (30′ ,special performance) A special performance held at the regional theatre courtyard with impregnated audience , a play produced by Satako Tsurudome , performed by Sankar Venkateswaran and team. The performance was an exploration of the body as it responds to the various powers that oppress and repress it and how the space is negotiated.
Day two of ITFOK 9 will begin with ‘Quijote’ (60′ , Spain) at the Thoppil Bhasi Black Box theatre at 11:00 Am. Streets of Thrissur are seeing something like never before and the involvement of audience gives ITFOK a distinct place among theatre festivals all over the world.