Putting real meaning in 'dignity of labour'

Yesterday, on May 1, Mumbai marked Maharashtra Day with a slew of functions across the city. There was the annual march at Shivaji Park, an annual event long awaited by several Mumbaikars, who thronged the nursery of Indian cricket to watch the parade. For others there were several cultural performances, including traditional music and dance with an accent on the indigenous.

This focus on Maharashtra overshadowed the other occasion on May 1, which is also Labour Day. The International Workers’ Day (also known as May Day) is a celebration of the international labour movement. May 1 is a national holiday in more than 80 countries and is celebrated unofficially in many other countries. May Day is tied to labour movements for communist and socialist political parties.

Though the labour union movement is on the wane in the city, it is time we stress on one aspect which seems to be missing in our everyday lives the dignity of labour.

Here, unlike in the West, there is a tendency to look down on the lower rungs of the workforce. Blue collar workers, labourers, hired help; they are all part of our societal structure, but very often, people in that strata do not command any respect. Conservancy workers, those who do such a vital job for the city, feel the sting of being shunned and looked down upon the most. This is unlike the West, where any kind of work and worker is not saddled with shame. In fact, by and large there is dignity of labour. They too, are considered an integral and important part of the workforce.

This kind of attitude needs to be inculcated here as well, and at an early age, so that it becomes ingrained in us. A Mumbai school took young students on a field trip to a construction site where they cut a cake with labourers to mark the day. It was a small but welcome attempt to put real meaning into the phrase, ‘dignity of labour’.

Let introspection and subsequent efforts be aimed toward taking out the shame in any kind of work.

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