Thursday, April 22, 2010

the inevitable move from brawn to brain

there is a greater shortage of people ready and willing to do heavy duty manual work, unlike in the past, and as this work is generally done by those unable to hold other types of steady and knowledge intensive employment, the numbers ready and willing is decreasing at an alarming rate. Jobs such as tree climbing, such as for coconut plucking are at a premium and it is not unusual for them to be earning in the region of Rs50K per month, however even at this rate there are no takers, and it has been suggested like in Kerala that we train monkeys to pluck the coconuts for us.

We as a country are still not ready to use mechanical means. One only has to go to the Dambulla and other wholesale food centers to see the manual workers carrying heavy loads some in excess of 80kg such as in perforated bags of Pumpkin. It is now harder to find these people to lug them at the per piece rate of Rs40 that is charged, nor are there any trolleys or forklift related mechanical means to assist in this regard.

It is important that our organizers and planners of these establishments design means to reduce this manual task forthwith if we are to be able to operate these establishments with maximum efficiency.

This thinking man's blog is one to motivate the gray cells in our thinkers to these inevitable changes if we are better able to cope with advances in the movement of goods and services and also improve on the serious productivity weaknesses. I see that there is absolutely no planning in this area at all and we still assume this labor will be available forever. We should not as is always the case wait for a crisis to occur before we change our procedures.

In other countries there are workman's compensation laws for injury that are strictly enforced along with ILO regulations in this regard. As most of the work is done by small scale operators that are not even incorporated, it is difficult to enforce laws on individual owners of small businesses who themselves take these risks. We must not let these struggling businesses be burdened with injury, and take the initiative of providing the needed relief. We can also harness the services of international organizations like the ones mentioned earlier to assist in this regard in a practical sense in providing ergonomic products for injury threatening work.

The important point to note that in my many many years in the West I cannot think of one instance where these kinds of weights have been carried by individuals on their backs, and why we continue with practices that have been done away with in these countries in over 50 years. Why are we lagging so far behind? It is because non of the law makers has ever carried a heavy sack of anything, and probably never did a hard, let alone manual day's work in their lives and are therefor not concerned at all for the welfare of their fellow man who they pretend to represent.

If you truly represent them, then do something soon to alleviate their suffering and improve their livelihood. No wonder the people drink, as they need more than 'dutch' courage to life such heavy loads, or climb such high trees without a harness or back up.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It is an extremely important General Election stupid!!! and not a beauty contest for preferences

It is a very sad time indeed in our Serendipitous Isle, for ‘Good Governance’ that we hold a General Election, where no one knows what the individual parties stand for, and which if truth be told, the Governing Alliance did not even bother to publish a manifesto, being confident that they will win.

The election therefore has been reduced to one of people, with all ‘Media Advertising’ as well as posters and cutouts concentrating merely on individuals to be elected to represent a district. Individuals therefore have had to raise funds, use public resources unashamedly, a perfect example being the foreign minister using the resources of his ministry to plug himself as the savior of SL, and somehow fight to get the preferences. You judge whether he deserves to win.

In this election it is tough for the hardworking to get their names across as they have been unable to raise the mega funds available. If I were to give examples from the Colombo District, I say that Susil Premajayanth a very unostentatious man living simply in a small house, not known for taking any funds for personal gain, representing the ruling alliance, and Manju Sri Arangala, representing the main opposition, well known within his area of Homagama as a very hard working local politician who had done wonders in his area, and who commanded the largest percentage vote of any from a local electorate, may struggle to get in due to the problem of lack of name recognition outside his sphere of influence.

Whether either of these two gentlemen will get sufficient preferences, to get into parliament, I don’t know, and would sure hope so, but it is lack of money stupid!!!
We now agree the system is flawed and needs change, and I sincerely hope that the next parliament will with the assistance of the Opposition, change the system, to one that is more representative and accountable and do away with the preferences.

When in this Democratic Socialist Republic did we think it is Capitalist, Wealthy, non-tax paying, where did his money come from, Celebrity people who will get elected at the expense of competent, hardworking honest patriotic and dedicated people. The people, police, public and powers pay patronizing deference to these Members of Parliament as if they are some beings from outer space, when they have done nothing to earn this respect. Most of the people who seem to support them in public seem not to be old enough to vote, or are paid to attend, so I hope common sense will prevail, and I pray the voter will remember not to vote for the person who bought his last meal, but the person who best can represent his or her interests in Parliament for six long years and not defect to another party!!!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Agriculture Labor the most prone to accidents due to the nature of the job

This weekend, we climbed coconut trees to pluck coconuts, climbed an Amberella tree to shake the fruit to the ground, Climbed a thorny Orange tree to hand pluck the Oranges to prevent them from falling to the ground, and then climbed the roof of a shed that has roof tiles to pluck limes from the top of the lime tree as the limes within easy reach have been stolen by the passers by either for personal use or sale.

The above together with using the scythe to cut paddy and a whole host of manual activity on the land is highly dangerous. I still have a scar to show for cutting my finger badly when cutting paddy a few years back, as reported in my other blog ( some years back.

On the other hand, this labor is the least qualified, has the least education, and least paid, performing the most dangerous work one could imagine. In turn I have mentioned I take my life into my own hands at nights when trying to close the water outlets to neighbors who have taken my water entitlements so that I can get some much needed water to my paddy fields.

With most farmers working just for themselves, and not being in companies have no recourse to any compensation for accidents in the normal course of work. I have known families being destitute because bread winner is incapacitated due to injury. There is no real social safety net to take these into account except for possibly personal savings. Thank heavens for the free medical treatment the state offers, which I have used numerous times for my staff in such situations.

We have a welfare scheme, Samurdhi, which is so politicized it does not help the needy, just the influential who use the system for personal gain. It is important that there is more emphasis placed by the agricultural departments on workplace safety, and on site training for people on the best methods. I am personally affected, as I recently was told I may be getting a serious problem of sciatica due possibly lifting large bunches of King Coconuts, sacks of paddy and rice, and also driving long distances in a vehicle that is arguably the most uncomfortable to drive. I know I have to do what I do to survive, and I don’t have dependents except my staff to worry about. The thought that I don’t have insurance to cover an eventuality is disconcerting, but to think that the majority of the people in this field are winging their lives hoping they will not have serious accident is not good enough.

Just to take an example, there is so much rubbish and broken glass thrown everywhere in the rural areas, by people who have had alcohol either in company or by themselves, going barefoot, a common trait here is just asking for trouble.