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Dignity of labour-Route to success
Monday, 15 October 2018 16:50

Dignity of labour – Route to success

Why are there so many empty seats at our ITIs in India – and a surfeit of applications for the relatively fewer seats at the IITs? Why are there so many IITs and relatively so few technical schools, when the need is so great? Why are there so many civil engineers in India, but it is difficult to find a draftsman? So many mechanical engineers but it is difficult to get a good fitter or welder; so many interior decorators but it is difficult to get a good carpenter?


It is because in India, we have a false sense of pride. We consider working with our hands to be "infra dig." We would prefer to earn less, but be a "babu "in the Secretariat, after having graduated in a subject which has no relevance to our career.  All this may have something to do with our caste system or even a strong class system. It is ingrained that there are certain jobs that are reserved for the proletariat. The middle classes or those who think that they belong there, look at these assignments with a stiff upper lip. But the environment may be changing for the better - though not fast enough!

The author met Arun many years ago in Mumbai. He had the contract of cleaning and disinfecting the telephones in the office of the multinational company where the author worked. He told him that he could not get a job after graduation and so he started by offering companies to clean their office telephones periodically. One contract led to another - until he had employee strength of 300 people! All they did was to go from office to office, every month, and clean all the telephones. Arun was now an entrepreneur and earned more money than he could ever have earned as a junior corporate executive. What distinguished Arun from most other people was that he understood the concept of "dignity of labour."

Some years later, he met Samir in Bangalore, who had gone way beyond telephones - and had taken contracts for cleaning large offices and factories. His people were "on site" every day - and there were 1800 of them. He was running a large operation, virtually the size of a medium scale factory. Samir was a mechanical engineer who gave up a job to be on his own, and discovered this profitable niche in the marketplace.

The author was visiting his son in California, when he was having some work done on his home. Since he was relatively free, he began chatting with the mason who was doing the brick laying. He asked him how long he had been doing this and he was surprised he said, "Two years." "And what were you doing earlier?" he asked. He was a Boeing pilot with United Airlines!! Since the airline business was going through a rough patch, he was retrenched. He did not see the airlines coming out of the trough so soon, so he decided to change careers. He always liked brick laying and thought he will do it now instead of sitting and moping and waiting for better times for Jet pilots. He was now happy - and earning enough and doing what he liked to do. Albert understood the dignity of labour. He was not held captive by his status as a "jet pilot."

Young people need to understand that there is no such thing as a "menial" job. Every job is worth doing. What is important is doing it well. And if it is well done - whether as a pilot or as a mason - there will always be satisfaction, as well as money, in the job.

The author, Walter Vieira is a senior management consultant