Saturday, July 13, 2024

End corporate exploitation

At a time when the working class is grappling hard to meet basic necessities due to low-paid salaries and stumbling to lead a peaceful life owing terrifying working conditions, the statement from a corporate big-wig, NR Narayana Murthy, co-founder and the former CEO of Infosys, last month forces the populace to shed light on the structural disparities in the Indian economy in specific and the exploitative nature of capitalist system as a whole. While the sky-rocketing inflation and the mounting debt in the form of loans and bills is pushing an average working Indian into a state of despair, the rigid working environment is ripping him/her off physical health and mental peace. In addition, with the onslaught on the labour rights under the guise of labour reforms and ease of doing business, it is not only the space in which the working class can fight to realise their rights and put forth their demands has confined but it has also created an atmosphere wherein the working class need to kowtow to the cold and cruel wishes and aspirations of the corporates. It is in this context one has to view the recent statement of Infosys founder about the “70 hour work week” and understand the rationale behind it.

Sword of damocles

With the advent of globalization and the deep penetration of technology, the work culture not only in India but also across the globe has dramatically changed. Since 1990s, the period in which India has started embracing the liberal economic agenda, it is only the corporate class that is savouring the fruits of economic growth and success. On the surface, though it may appear that the modern Indian state is successful in pulling a major chunk of its population out the quagmire of poverty, the truth is only unveiled when one casts the light on the debt which is hanging like the sword of damocles on an average Indian family. The transition of the Indian economic system from the mixed to market-driven model has subsided and exterminated the fundamental economic principle of post-independent India i.e., equitable distribution of wealth and resources. Rapid withdrawal of the Indian state from the economic arena complemented by crony-capitalist policies has skewed the benefits of economic balance towards the superyacht classes. Instead of playing the role of a guardian, the post-liberal Indian state has turned a deaf ear to the voice of the hapless working class and being used by the corporate class as a channel to gush the wealth up from the toiling masses.

The liberal policies of Indian state under the token of open-economy has left the working class to their own fate. The gradual implementation of pro-corporate policies like tax holidays, special incentives, labour reforms and so forth has altered the variables of what called as a sound and vibrant economy. Known for its welfare metrics earlier, the Indian state has turned into a one-stop body for the corporates to multiply their profits. Since the profits don’t fall from the sky nor the unknown magics created out of nowhere, the plight of burgeoning sections of the Indian populace has been put at stake. In as much as the traditional livelihood of the vast majority of the population had been put at stake, they had no option other than choosing the employment offered by the corporate class just to fetch the peanuts. It is important to mention here that the salaries or wages that corporates pay to their employees or workers form only a miniscule of the profits they register.

Devilish motives

The cross-national nexus that these corporates share is an invisible empire that sustains on the blood, sweat and brain of the working class. The exploitation by these corporates is no where less than the exploitation done by the trading companies promoted by the then European imperial powers in the medieval times. Currently, it is under the banner of globalization that these corporates masking their devilish motives.

While the workers across the world are being paid much less than their efforts, the workers in the third world nations are earning much less than their western peers for the same tasks or responsibilities they are bound to fulfil. On the same lines, while the workers cutting across the nations are forced to over-work more than the stipulated working hours, the people in the third world nations are coerced to work more than their western counterparts.

Stigmatized standards and ownership

Moreover, it is the psychological hegemony of corporates that is taking toll on the working population’s health, both physical and mental. The narrative that is developed by capitalist class on the part of working population is completely misleading. The crude emphasis on the material possessions and the ownership on things have been putting the purpose of life at stake. In order to fix themselves to attain social stature or to meet the stigmatized standards like owning the house, car, buying things on instalment mode and so forth are pushing the working population into the debt-trap. In totality, it appears that the life cycle of the working population is revolving around the ownership and loan repayments. In addition to the volatile job market, the appeal by the corporates honchos to the working population to work more has been making their life a meaningless and futile excercise.

Lifeless robots

It is important to realise the fact that the new technological developments such as automation and others can serve as bargaining chips in the hands of corporates to threaten the working class population and make them work as lifeless robots. Let alone 8-hour work day rule, going by the existing tendencies, a question would arise whether the corporate or industrial class would allow the working class population to satiate their biological needs or everyday ablutions down the line.

Sacrifices and returns

Undoubtedly, the working class has sacrificed their rights, privileges and economic incentives for the sake of economic growth. Sadly, the growth is tweaked in the favour of corporates and industrial class and the fruits of the growth have not trickled down to the sections that are contributing for the same. Since the profits that these corporates make are correlated to and depended on the exploitation of working class in the form of under-payments, the appeals by the corporates to the workers to work more is neither shocking nor surprising.

It is high time on the part of the working class population to fight the exploitation with the collective spirit and stand against the injustices inflicted upon them by the superyacht classes.

Samudrala VK
Samudrala VK
Samudrala VK, Columnist on international affairs, trade and social issues and Director, Samudrala VK IAS Academy.


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