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Voice of Unheard

ISRO truck stopped in Kerala, demanded Rs. 10 Lakh as gawking charges to let go

Sep 6, 2021

Barely a couple of days after the Kerala High Court directed the state to get rid of the practice of ‘nokku-kooli’ which literally means ‘gawking charges’, a truck of ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) was blocked on Sunday by workers allegedly demanding money.

Police said they received a complaint from ISRO based on which they reached the spot and found the workers preventing from entering the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) facility at Thumba here.

ISRO employee Rajeswari told PTI that the cargo was so heavy that it cannot be offloaded with the use of only hydraulic systems. Despite this, she said, the people wanted money for letting the cargo in.

The VSSC officials said their truck was stranded for more than four hours after workers sought ₹10 lakh. Later they informed the CM’s office about this and labour minister V Sivankutty intervened and the truck was allowed to go inside the high security premises after several rounds of talks and protest.

The issue was settled and the workers left the area after the intervention of police officers, including the Commissioner, an official of the Thumba Police Station said.

Nokku-kooli is an euphemism for extortion by organised labour unions.

“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 Kerala High Court had said last week. Notably, the practice was abolished by the Kerala government in 2018.

Under the practice people are charged by licenced members of the head load workers by not doing any work. The practice is still continuing in many parts of the state under the backing of militant trade unions. It is better known as extortion by registered trade unions. With info from Tatva

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