Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s missive to the striking anganwadi workers that they should cease their ongoing protest and undertake not to embark upon further protests if they are to be taken back is not only in poor taste, but also reeks of condescension besides being completely illegal.
Going on a protest or a strike is a completely legitimate form of placing one’s demands before the government of the day in an attempt to force the government’s hand to achieve a set of demands. In fact, not only is it legitimate, one can go so far as to say that it is what this country has been founded on. Non-violent protest has been the hallmark of Goa’s freedom movement and which ultimately brought us freedom from colonial rule earning India’s freedom movement a pride of place in world history and India’s founding fathers honoured and respected around the world for championing the cause of freedom in a non-violent way.
After independence non-violent protest has been used as an effective tool to force duly elected governments to change their policies and bow to the will of the people. Goa has had its fair share of people’s movements that have brought successive governments to their knees. The right to strike and the right to form unions are protected by the Constitution and are an effective tool the world over towards “collective bargaining”.
By embarking on their hunger strike protest, the striking anganwadi workers were only asserting a right and using one of the few available avenues to make the government sit up and take notice. No doubt, their petition before the High Court was rejected, in such a situation the government has two options -- to either accept their demands or reject them. However, grandstanding on issues or imposing conditions that are clearly unconstitutional as a precondition to grant their demands is clearly illegal and uncalled for.
Is the chief minister trying to suggest that the government is willing to do what they were right up to now completely unwilling to do, but only if the striking workers bow to his unreasonable demands? Does this suggest that it is very possible to meet these demands but in exchange he wants to extract some completely unnecessary ‘add-ons?’ The chief minister appears to be making this a personal ego battle to be able to say that he was able to extract at least some ‘compromises’ from the anganwadi workers before agreeing to their demands.
The chief minister needs to realise that governance is not one of granting special favours or making it seems like special favours are being granted in exchange for compromises, but one in which he as chief minister should be performing as his bounden duty. It is high time the chief minister brushes up on the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution and understands his role in that context rather than as one being where he is a law unto himself dictating who should be doing what in order to receive ‘favours’ from the government.