19 April, 2021

St Antony's Cross

His burdens are many: a broke treasury, an obdurate trade union bloc, detractors within and without his party…. Will popular support help the Kerala CM pull off his toughest act?

St Antony's Cross
A.K. Antony is not an economic reformer of the Harvard Business School kind. But Kerala’s Congress chief minister with socialist moorings is riding on public support to bring fiscal discipline to a state neck-deep in debt. Antony kickstarted his revival package last month by cutting government expenditure—taking away leave encashment and snipping pension benefits from all state government employees. It was also decided that salaries for February and March will only be paid by the 15th of each month. All these moves led to 5.5 lakh employees going on an indefinite strike from February 6, throwing the government machinery and schools out of gear.

Given Kerala’s tradition of supporting the worker against the state, the non-gazetted officers union (ngo union) should have normally garnered much public sympathy. Instead, the man on the street who has tired of the harassment he is put through by the babus at collec-torates and taluk offices is supportive of the government move. The strike has also led to garbage piling up on the streets, leaving citizens further incensed. That...

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