Blog

How does ‘capitalism’ affect bus drivers?

Ajay's rant | Diary of a London Bus Driver
Please follow and like us:
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
Google+
http://ajaypamneja.com/blog/how-does-capitalism-affect-bus-drivers/

Capitalism to an economist means a mechanism of wealth creation and distribution, whereas a layman’s interpretation of the word is how the workers in this world get ‘screwed’ by the rich employers – strange, eh? Or is it just a strange case of Homographs?

The London Bus drivers are an unusual breed. The workers in this industry come from a vastly different range of backgrounds. Some have been in this industry since they left school, which could have been 30 years ago and many, have more recently, come from several other professions in the recent years, as job markets have changed with recession in our economy leading to redundancies in many sectors. The privatisation of the bus industry and much of the transport sector had opened many lucrative opportunities for individuals with the right business approach, because of the huge subsidies and opportunities to return massive profits for their shareholders. The controls and monitoring of performance of the privatised industry were poor for almost the first 20-25 years, leading to most profits made by such companies in this period. Hence we saw the proliferation of many European companies enter the UK transport sector because of the huge potential profit margins with little control. While the economy was strong and companies made eye-watering profits, the workers were also enjoying above-average wages and reaping rewards of a newly privatised industry in its infancy, while the darker forces of capitalism slowly gathered force.

Slightly tighter controls by the public bodies like TfL (Transport For London) and use of technology to monitor the performances of these privatised companies began to take place in the mid-noughties and they suddenly, began to feel the mild squeeze on their, earlier easily derived, profits. The bosses could not suddenly let their life-styles suffer. Hence, came the onslaught on workers’ terms and conditions and pay scales. With pretty blatant collusion with the unions, the old pay structures were slashed and new terms and conditions imposed on drivers and an ever increasing pressure on established drivers with implied fear of job loss if they fail to comply, despite the fact the employers needed these drivers to keep the services running. The recent recession had provided the employers with an endless stream of new applicants willing to do the job despite the increasing imbalance between the working hours/pay/terms. The older established drivers fear losing their jobs for the slightest misdemeanour, because of increasingly punitive approach by company managers, who are under increasing pressure from the bosses due to their own amended work contracts. The companies try to extract every extra minute out of the drivers that the extremities of the ‘Driving Hours’ law provides them, with no regard to health and safety of the employees.

Direct impact on drivers

  • Many drivers are now doing over 37% more hours, at times, to earn the same daily pay as in 2010
  • Drivers are being given less travel time between destinations (garage and route terminus) to start and finish off their ‘profitable’ part of the duty
  • Drivers are given less preparation time from the first sign-on time to start their duty and also less time (sometime none) to start the second part of their duty after their meal-relief (lunch time to the non-initiated)
  • Duties starting at unusually early hours, like 3 am or 4 am used to be shorter jobs to offer drivers more rest time. This is no longer the case. You could still be expected to work for 10-11 hours, despite starting your day at 3 am or 4 am. Imagine the impact of this on your concentration and health after 3-4 days of such duty.
  • Annual pay-rise are hard to come-by, and a real struggle to extract out of the companies.
  • Sickness pay, unsocial hours work, extra day work (rest day work), Sunday rates have all been cut to the bone or no longer available.

 

Drivers are their own worst enemy!

  • Drivers do not help their own cause by, unknowingly, offering additional services to the employers which make their wage bill much lower than it should be.
  • Drivers coming to work early (sometimes even 2-3 hours) offer their employers an army of unpaid workers to call upon if another driver is delayed or unable to make it to work, as these early arrivals will happily take on the other duty just so that they can finish a bit early. Such ‘stand-by’ drivers would otherwise need to be arranged by the company at additional cost.
  • A driver, agreeing to do additional rest days at the same rate as any other day in the week means they are offering the company extra employees at no additional cost. Drivers also fail to recognise the adverse health effects of such long shifts over sustained periods of time doing this job.
  • A blatant case of drivers not recognising their own strength has been when they fail to support their own unions, on rare occasions, when they have called a strike to fight against these attempts to drive down wages by the employers (in return for measly incentives offered by the employers).

 

Unions are nowhere to be seen while this onslaught is causing a severe deterioration in the job pay and conditions of all bus drivers across the capital.  This is the epitome of the dark side of Capitalism, when profit making takes a higher position than anything else – including health and well-being of the workers, and also, indirectly, the business customers.  Without being an alarmist – Imagine what a tired and frustrated bus driver can end up doing!

The great Labour/Conservative chasm (General Election 2015)

Politics
Please follow and like us:
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
Google+
http://ajaypamneja.com/blog/the-great-labourconservative-chasm-general-election-2015/

This has been a very actively contested and fought election, partly brought on by the many more media channels being used to disperse the information from all the major parties. People have widely discussed the issues and expressed opinions in many different forums on the omnipresent internet through the variety of gadgets and devices at our disposal. I must also point out that I did not carry out major research for this article or have a degree in economics to have a mastery of the all the correct terms; this is purely based on my experiences and gut feel of how people around me feel about the great debate on who should form the next government. Comments to fill any holes in the arguments below would be very welcome!

People in the country have formed their allegiances based on so many different aspects of their own lives and experiences under the current Conservative/Lib-Dem coalition government. Labour on the other hand had left a legacy after 3 terms in parliament of extreme borrowing and ‘bulging at the seams’ welfare bill and a section of the population in an ever increasing downward spiral of unemployment and life time of benefits. It had lost all control on the financial markets , the media, the energy sector and its policies were all over the place. Infact, socialism had died under ‘New Labour’. Conservatives have worked hard to make some bold changes to the Education System, benefits and welfare system, employment laws and also some variations brought on in the financial markets. The biggest thorn in their backside has been the European Union membership, which has caused them enormous headaches because of the right wing talk of its effect on the labour market in the UK and also the pressures put on our social services and NHS by the huge influx of people from the EU countries.

I am pretty confident that very large proportion of our population uses social media tools like FaceBook in their daily lives to interact with their peers and other social groups. This platform has also offered people the opportunity to express their opinions and views vociferously and in copiousness during the 2015 General Elections.

I, personally, have been very encouraged by the Govian pursuit to make some bold reforms to the constantly dumbed-down education system we have in this country. He has been heavily criticised for his efforts,labourvtory but that is human nature – change is never ‘liked’, even though it may have been necessary. Sadly, his reign as Education Secretary was cut short to save the party’s face from never-ending criticism. The last straw may have been the so-called ‘Trojan Horse’ effect in midlands, which was later ruled as ‘one that never was’. I personally disagree with that final verdict as I believe that such actions by the maligned community have existed even in schools in London. It was a clear cover-up to put an end to that chapter in the continuing English tradition of appeasement. There was no change to previously promised bonuses and caps on salaries for banking executives. After all, how could Cameron and Clegg cut the income of their own family members? This did not go down well with the public. It is a well-known fact that welfare system in this country has been due a major reform for decades, but no politician in the past has dared gone down that route for fear of draining down their vote bank. I will put my neck on the line and state that a significant proportion of the ‘net immigration into the UK’ will disappear if we have stricter controls on our benefits system! Under the guise of austerity and reducing the borrowing, there was a major culling exercise on benefit claims. This was, unfortunately, done with an air of condescension and no recognition that it may hit those who rely on the system the most or those most vulnerable. You cannot expect the population which has relied on benefits for generations to suddenly accept that they will have to do without them, with no alternatives in place – no additional employment opportunities, etc. My personal belief is that there needs to be more investment into technology that assists in management of the benefits systems and detects fraud, because that is where a large chunk of the welfare bill gets wasted – going into the pockets of those unscrupulous ones who know how to beat the system. I have never understood why social housing is provided ‘for life’ to people on reasonable salaries , along with all the other benefits they get like exemption from Council Tax, free NHS prescriptions, etc. etc. This has to stop – rather than continuing with the coalition’s current policies. The innocent ones who really need the funds are the ones who end up taking the brunt of this cull. This, rather inhumane approach may have cost the conservatives some support. Despite, their earlier suggestions that the whole society will bear the pain of austerity, it felt as though the super-rich had been spared again by altering the top rate tax bands and offering them other concessions and tax-breaks to larger corporates. This has been the traditional outlook under conservative governments; anyway to favour the rich – but blatant favours when there has been so much squeeze on the lower income groups has been shockingly cruel. This government also made several changes to the employment law making it harder for ordinary employees to take their cases to employment tribunals and other regulations like ‘zero hour contracts’, which were originally brought in to assist the voluntary sector were adopted as the norm by larger corporates with blatant shamelessness to reduce their own expenses and with no pressure from the government to desist from such practices. Further reforms to curb union activities also undermine the few bodies which tend to be the only voice of the working classes. The socialist in me believes that the coalition government has worked hard to ensure that the powers granted to the workers over the last few decades are eroded as fast as possible to ensure that the large corporates have a free reign on the workforce and full control to exploit them with impunity. One of the major deciding factors for me has been the TTIP regulation which is being bandied about secretly by the European and US conservatives. This has the potential to absolutely crush any powers the public bodies have over most aspects of our lives and hand over all control to the mega rich conglomerates of this world. To find out more about TTIP see this link (http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/ttip). Both the major parties in the UK have shown their support to this treaty, which has single handedly lost my support to these parties. There is no indication of an iota of social responsibility being exhibited by these two parties which is very worrying for the future of our world. The blatant sale of NHS functions to major private suppliers is well known. Despite all Tory claims, it is clear that they want their friends in the medical service providers group to benefit from the well-established and well-loved health care system in the UK. It is understood that the NHS cannot continue with the state funding it as it has done for many decades – so why allow the super-rich from foreign lands to come to the UK and have expensive surgeries through this system – it is such practices of abuse which need to be curtailed. Even small contributions from regular users of the service can be considered as a source of income. There are many other wastage channels, which need to be plugged, like the large transfers of funds to opticians and dentists, etc. which are, I am sure, regularly abused.

It is the above reasons which form the core of my arguments against or for the political parties in the UK.
In forums where there is a majority of business owners (even small businesses) or skilled employees on relatively larger salaries, there seems to be praises and support for the coalition for their stance on entrepreneurship and tax breaks, etc. Also, the conservatives are generally against putting in place restrictions on the wealth generating activities (e.g. rent controls for landlords proposed by labour and resisted by the conservatives). Such peers and members of the population group would be hoping for the conservatives to return to power. They fear that the Labour will mismanage the economy again with no controls on their borrowing leading to increased taxes, etc.

On the other hand, my peer forums with those in employment in the unskilled sector and also those with more of a socialist mindset refer to the inhumane approach to cut down the benefits for those who need them most, cuts to other social services including Arts, attack on employment laws and rights, restriction of Union activities – are definitely hoping to see the back of the conservative led government.

My small personal wish list for a future government policies would be:

  • Very strict definition of ‘Vulnerable’ members of the public who should be eligible for social housing and related benefits (regularly reviewed!)
  • No benefits unless several years of contributions into the system
  • Encourage jobs growth by true incentives to employers, with measured output
  • Contracts with large financial organisations to contribute to the social enhancement in return for permission to operate in the country with their investment and insurance activities
  • Ring-fenced and defined public funding to NHS and education (including decent pay structures for employees in these sectors)
  • Have effective controls on private organisations receiving government funding to provide public services like transport, energy production and supply, Medical and Care Services
  • One I would like to see the most – reduce defence budget to ‘Zero’. Do we need more weapons and ammunition manufacturing to sell to countries where they end up being traded to wrong groups who end up using them against us, eventually!

This has been an outpouring of my feelings having seen and read so much in the media.

Does the whole world hate all Muslims?

Politics
Please follow and like us:
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
Google+
http://ajaypamneja.com/blog/does-the-whole-world-hate-all-muslims/

The answer to the above nonsensical question is – obviously no!

 

The next question is why did this question even come to anybody’s mind? That anybody could be a Muslim or a non-Muslim. Any moderate, law abiding Muslim must have asked themselves this question many a times after seeing the negativity in the press and media and also the everyday life on the street must spring up examples of mistrust and anger from the uneducated sections of the society. There must have equally been times when many less tolerant and less aware non-Muslims have wondered if all Muslims deserve the negative tags and labels associated with that faith the world over. I need to detail this train of thought further. ..

 

One thing that has triggered off this article is the compassion and generosity of the human kind. Two recent world events, namely the downing of the civilian Malaysian plane and the on-going atrocities in Gaza, have proven that human tragedy brings people of all faiths and colours closer. Isn’t that a proof enough that human kind need to learn to live together and respect all human life as much as we respect our own. Muslims and non-Muslims have been equally troubled and pained by the suffering of the Gazan civilians that they have marched togtheer in cities all over the world to let Israel know where the public opinion lies and also make it clear to its allies that their policies need to change. The pain of the families of the passengers of the downed plane has also been felt the world over. Whatever the politics of both these events is, it is the ordinary civilians who have suffered to satisfy the greed and unchallenged thinking of a few! One train of thought points the finger at the same nation for both these events – a ‘has been’ super power, although it still has the might to mould world events. Can the imperialistic greed make our leaders so blind to human suffering? It is so difficult to comprehend the double standards when the same leaders stand in a religious event and give speeches of human love and compassion and the same day at a business promotion event be promoting the sale of deadly arms to regimes known to be anything but just and compassionate. Does the world need so much weaponry. The same amount of money could be used to make the world a happy and peaceful place by educating and feeding people. If people have food, a house and respect in society – wouldn’t people stop fighting? Or am I too naive?

 

The Palestinian PR machinery has worked perfectly well this time and has managed to get the world to understand their suffering. The use of new technology and social media has helped them gain the attention of the younger and less partial Muslims all over the world, and eventually the wider population as the word spread of the heinous treatment of the innocent civilians by the Israeli forces. The Muslim neighbours of the Palestinians, namely, the Jordanians, Egyptians and Saudis have remained quiet for the last 70 years and done nothing to alleviate the pain and suffering of the Palestinian masses as it served their purpose because a super power wanted them to stay out and all it had to do to keep them out was keep feeding them with arms and ‘aid’. They had no care in the world that their Muslim brethren were suffering, as long as their coffers are being filled by the western allies. This is what I mean by the older Muslim ruling classes have stayed out of this conflict, whereas the younger less partial Muslims have responded to the calls on social media and gathered together for a humane cause to organise protests and arrange aid for the Gazan population. No doubt, a few old school Muslim organisations have also joined hands to express solidarity, some with honest intentions and others to gain a foothold to gain from future spoils, which should become obvious as time progresses and the people will be able to distinguish the humans from the wolves. I hope that the young and majority of the Muslims will be able to see through this and remember which organisations are worth supporting in the future.

The Israeli leadership and armed forces on their part have proven that they are ruthless, heartless and have scant regard for morals or acceptable international behaviour. They have butchered innocent civilians in the guise of protecting their territory, while the world knows that this is a shameless exercise in annexing more territory to gain full control of Gazan oil and gas reserves off the coastline along the Gaza Strip.

During the last 70 years, while the Muslim neighbours of Palestine have been feeding on the western aid, Israel has been going from strength to strength in its scientific and military progress. The rulers of that state are nothing but a proxy of the Western Allied governments in the region to keep an eye on things for their masters. This is obvious after knowing that despite numerous shoddy attempts there has never been peace in the region since the formation of the Israeli state. This also shows how cleverly the Muslim states have been kept apart by very subtle manipulation of the regimes all these years. They have never joined forces to help their own (the Palestinians), despite watching Israel grow strong beyond belief in the region. Israel has grown so strong that this conflict has shown it get confrontational with its own supporters in the affluent west (or is that just another propagandist exercise? – The proverbial Good Cop Bad Cop exercise!).

The recent aggression by Israel has been portrayed in the Palestine friendly blogs and posts around the world as one dictated by the ‘Zionists’ to separate them from the ordinary peace loving Jewish population. This has created an image of the expansionist faction of Jews who want to continue to increase their territory and create their own land in the middle of the Arab world being the ones to be blamed for all this misery. This brings me back to the original question of this article – maybe that is also a characteristic that the Muslims need to lose! The image of forever wanting to impose their beliefs and faiths on the rest of the world as if they want to expand the Muslim world to the entire earth! Maybe, that is the comparision with today’s Israel. Maybe, if the factions in the Muslim community who believe in forever expansion of the religion pause to think and realise that it is this which is causing the world to have negative feelings towards their faith. Religion is a personal thing and should be kept that way. The kindness and goodness of a faith will attract others to join, not finding technical loopholes in the law of any land to impose your views on the population. Just the same way the Muslims have now united against the Israel’s ruthless expansion, maybe the Muslim people need to wake up and realise that the only way to build a harmonious world is to accept and assimilate in the societies which host you and let them see the goodness in you. The majority of the peace loving and beautiful Muslims need to challenge some of the leadership when they preach hatred and expansionist ideas! The younger generation who have united to protest against the current Israeli aggression, may set an example for all the community to unite with all Muslims sects and form a united force to change the face of the middle-east which is marred by so many conflicts at the moment, when everyone knows that it could be such a peaceful and happy place with all its resources if people could learn to live together.

Amen!

Lok Sabha Elections in India – 2014

Politics
Please follow and like us:
Follow by Email
Facebook
Facebook
Google+
http://ajaypamneja.com/blog/lok-sabha-elections-in-india-2014/

Why do Indians love pain?

The recent elections in India have made me think about how the ‘democracies’ of the world operate and why is it that we (in India) are so afraid of change!

In my opinion, India has just lost an excellent opportunity to change history and re-write the future developments in India.

The collective psyche of ‘Indians’ loves pain and cannot dream of being a progressive, forward thinking society because people so want to stick to what they know and not change!

The years 2011/2012 brought in a new consciousness of yearning for an honest corruption free politics in India.  Not so much ‘new consciousness’, but more of finding a leader who was willing to raise a voice against the might of Indian politicians ruling the land!  People like Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare came to the fore-front and led millions of people to believe that they could finally get rid of the dynastic leaders who have ‘ruled’ India behind the facade of a ‘democracy’.  People were ’so wrong’.  Despite these rallies and gatherings drawing in millions of people, the might of the ruling class had been under-estimated. The rich politicians of both major parties ganged up, with their control of media empires to discredit the movement and malign the names of its main leaders, in a very well organised Propagandist style.  The masses seem to have taken the bait and shifted loyalties again!

The ruling elite, whether it be the Congress or the BJP are the Royalty of India, comparable to any of the monarchies in Europe – in their wealth and following.  The following for the royalty in the western world is more nostalgic or a harmless desire to keep them in place as a means of bring in tourist revenue for the state, whereas Indian following of the ruling elite families is more out of ignorance and sometimes a sad tale of bowing to them because of the muscle power the rich in India are able to display – a form of slavery!  Several politicians in the recent years holding the lead positions in the major parties either come from a very rich ancestry or have the blessings of super-rich industrialist families in India.

Every election in India since the independence has been marred with violence and dirty use of muscle power to silence anyone who dares speaks against the established governments in all parts of India.  the sad truth is that the far-flung parts of India are so remote that many news worthy stories from these regions do not even reach the national media.  Many of these regions are so under-developed that the natives do not even know of the governments in the country’s capital, as they have never travelled out of their states of birth.  News of the national progress rarely travels to these parts of the country.  The intelligentsia and the social activists, apart from some rare occasions, seem to have abandoned them.  You may hear a lonely voice trying to be heard on rare occasions from these regions, but they have always been subdued by branding them as violent naxalites and Maoists!  In the more newsworthy states of India, standing in elections as an Independent candidate has been a sign of courage to stand upto the ‘despotic rulers’.  I am sure there would be thousands of families throughout India who can tell of stories of people trying to stand up for truth and honesty with many having been mowed down dead, in manycases in front of witnesses too fearful to come forward.  Who would they come forward and speak to?  The police and the justice system is all complicit in this tyranny. This is how the repression of the people has occurred in the rural India for the last 67 years!

As a country with 1.2 billion people and a very miniscule proportion of it controlling several industries and commercial sectors and influencing and controlling media and politics, it has been very easy to distort the news that goes out to the world and also to the country’s own cosmopolitan capitals!  Don’t forget many of these Indians regularly rank amongst the WORLD’S richest people!

Even in the 21st century Delhi, if a westerner lands for the very first time, they would be amazed at the sights of the capital city.  The absolute chaos on the roads, the inefficiency of the public offices, the constant mocking and abuse of the weak, the disabled and the poor in public, businesses that flout all laws of the land on a daily basis, safety of the workers on the roads and factories and almost every industry sector, inefficiency of the justice system, blatant bribery of the police and government officials, hygiene on the streets and food halls of India, the list of things that make my blood boil goes on!  Part of this is due to the huge population that this land supports and tries to accommodate, but majority of it is because of the failure of all the governments this country has had to establish a coherent system of education and governance which works for its people!   So much so that many people have become so accustomed to it that they have accepted it as ‘their lot’ and do not want to change because they know how to find their way around it and are happy to ‘stick with it’!  As an outsider, I find it painful to even watch the news channels on Indian TV or read the Indian newspapers.  It feels that the news items are presented on TV as a Bollywood drama with no authenticity checks or storyline formation.  The mainstream popular print media is equally woeful, apart from a very small handful of publications.

Come 2013! Out of the non-political and non-violent social-activist led movements for a corrupt free governments originated a political force with a quirky name – the ‘Aam Aadmi Party’ (The Common Man’s Party).  Its leader/founder – Mr Arvind Kejriwal, a small time social activist who had been fighting his small battles against corruption and poor governance in various parts of the country.  He had been honoured with awards for his social work, but nobody knew of the force he was to become!  After the national media’s collusion with the influential politicians to discredit the movements of 2011/2012, this party was launched as the only means to bring to fruition the desire of the people for an honest government!  It started gathering force and following.  The leaders of the main parties were still mocking the party leader as a maverick who will get nowhere!  The wake-up call came when the party won an unprecedented number of seats for a party of less than 1 year old and ousted the 3 time Delhi CM and was able to form a hesitant coalition government in Delhi.  This was such a shock to the established parties that they resorted to their old dirty tactics to destabilise using negative propaganda style media stories and television telecasts.  When tis began to affect the efficient running of the government in its desire to root out the malpractices of past governments, the new CM of Delhi took a bold step to resign hoping for a re-election in future election to come back with a majority and perform the tasks without the childish and obstructive policies of the coalition partners.

This decision also coincided with the onslaught of mammoth General Elections to the lower house of the Indian Parliament in 2014.  This party, full of confidence, hoped to spread its desire of a corruption free politics to the whole of India.  Despite all good intentions, it was an act of political naivety as the party structures and consolidation policies were not fully in place yet.  Despite going ahead and taking on the established parties all over India and filing the highest number of candidates of all political parties in the country, the party was not able to convert its enlightened thinking and new fresh approach to politics into seats in the parliament. It only won 4 seats out of 543 seats in this massive land of many languages and disparate regions, but it has left an undeniable mark on all regions, which it should capitalise on and build its base in the future years.  Many incidents of violence and practices of vote rigging, manipulation of EVM (Electronic Voting Machines) have gone un-noticed and lost in the various other controversies.  Despite the fact that many of these incidents may have affected the voting numbers and leads gained by certain candidates, the accepted result remains that this party’s message did not reach the right number of people.  The core of Indian politics remains rotten with same faces back in the parliament who have been there before.  With constantly changing loyalties within parties and winning candidates to affect the formation of governments is a ritual only performed in India to this extent.  I am sure some loyalties vary over time with specific policies elsewhere, but in India it is so blatant that they are only done to influence the power balance.  It makes me sick to see that the masses have failed to notice this shameful side of the politics for the last 67 years.

Although the new party was young and still finding its feet, the heart of the party was in the right place and the intentions of bringing in positive ethics, to offer transparency and good governance in all public offices, to bring in the right approach to communal harmony amongst the huge plethora of communities within the country has been overlooked and bulldozed by the monstrous monolithic machinery of corrupt capitalist power.  The fear is that the winning party has at its core a very extreme right which almost has the right to veto its policies that do not serve its interests.  The winning party has also to help back the big industrial power houses which backed these elections, Quid pro quo, which will further affect the less well off in society as the economic gap widens.  A distinction and a special case needs to made here about how capitalist greed mixed with extreme corruption and inefficient governments has made life a misery for millions in the Indian context, and may continue to do during this parliament unless there is a vigilant opposiion!

For these reasons, India needs to rise to the challenge and support the new voice, which is the little voice that has always been there in the heart of thousands of millions of Indians during their youth, but it has now got buried so deep that it is finding hard to come out and be heard! The voice that said – “I wish someone could stand upto these corrupt and power hungry leaders, who have made mine and my loved ones’ lives a misery for the last 67 years.”  Now is your chance! Still!

Yes, I do support the AAP party and expect them to be a force majeure within the term of this parliament!