Thiruvananthapuram: After the Kerala High Court ordered the state to eliminate the practice of ‘nokku-kooli’, which literally means ‘gawking wages’, on Sunday a truck from ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) was blocked by workers allegedly demanding the wages.
Rajeswari, an ISRO employee, who was in charge of ensuring cargo offloading before noon, said that people demanded money to allow the vehicle into the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) facility in Thumba, Thiruvananthapuram. According to her, the cargo was too heavy to be offloaded manually, but it can be done by hydraulic systems only. In spite of this, she said, the people wanted money for letting the cargo in.
Ever since the VSSC was set up after the local residents’ land was acquired, it was customary for them to be paid whenever goods arrived. Her hope was that this practice would cease and that she would make a police complaint. A labour officer visited the scene and spoke to the people there, she said. She said the issue was settled following the intervention of government officials and police chiefs.
The police received a complaint from ISRO at around 11 AM, based on which they arrived and found the workers blocking the lorry.
Nokku-kooli is a euphemism for extortion by unions.
After hearing a petition filed by a Kollam businessman over the issue, the court said headload workers’ rights should be protected legally and that petitions seeking action against those demanding nokku-kooli are on the rise. ‘The practice of nokku-kooli is damaging the image of Kerala. It should be eradicated. It gives out wrong perceptions about the state. Meanwhile, the rights of the headload workers should also be protected,’ the court had said.
The State government banned the practice on May 1, 2018.