It has been the argument of many health experts in Kerala that malaria was eradicated in the state many decades ago. They go on to argue that the recent incidence of malaria in some pockets of the state is a resurgence of the disease. In fact there are quite a few who claim the spurt in the vector-borne disease is not so much indigenous but more a migrant labour-borne one.
The same however cannot be said about nokkukooli, the compensation claimed by headload workers in Kerala without actually engaging in any physical labour. On the contrary, migrant labour has thrived in Kerala at the expense of their indigenous counterparts who have remained unwilling to engage.
Therefore, as this ‘ghost’ charge for labour is soon to be confined to the dustbins, the LDF government led by the CPM, for long the proponent of nokkukooli, would do well to remember that the world is watching. It is no secret Kerala was at the forefront of banning the bandh, but it took no time to rear its ugly head under the label hartal, which still paralyses the state at will. Sure, Kerala is now making all the right noises about ease of doing business, but the hurdles are as much hartals as nokkukooli. Consider this: there was a time when traders who depended on Cochin Port had to cough up what was variously called kettukooli, kettukash and attikash—all synonyms for nokkukooli.
The decision to ban nokkukooli came after a Gulf-returnee committed suicide; the AIYF, the student wing of CPI, prevented him from setting up an automobile workshop on a leased plot by planting their flag at the site. As the epitaph on this much reviled and widely lampooned practice will be written on May 1, the International Workers’ Day, the message has to be “earn your wages”. Because, the decision to ban nokkukooli, announced by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan last week after meeting a clutch of trade union leaders, could have been powered by only one resolve—the time is up for free lunches. Unless nokkukooli does a hartal in Kerala.