Thiruvananthapuram: A young entrepreneur in Kerala has debunked a promise by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan to put an end to 'nokku kooli', a form of trade union extortion that requires businesses and individuals to pay porters even if they do not need their services.
Fazil Latheef, a furniture shop owner at Venpalavattom in Thiruvananthapuram, has written an open letter to the chief minister to recount a nasty confrontation with a local trade union attached to the BJP. He posted the letter and a video footage of the attempted extortion on Facebook.
The clip shows Latheef being accosted by a gang of porters affiliated to the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), led by the union’s local convener. They told the businessman to pay up and threatened to pull down his enterprise if he did not. They even dropped the name of a murder accused to intimidate the young man.
Latheef has lodged a complaint with the police. The Petta sub-inspector has launched an investigation into the extortion. He said that the porters did not carry labour cards or any other recognition. The police promised to nab all the culprits after looking into the footage.
Latheef’s letter was heartrending. He said that he would have no other option but to end his life if the unions pushed him out of his business. “I can’t watch my mother, father and sister being thrown into the street. That would mean my death. The death of a coward,” he wrote.
The B Tech graduate started the business with a few of his relatives. He mortgaged his house and gold to raise Rs 70 lakh to set up the shop. He took the local headload workers’ unions into confidence and sought their services to unload furniture to his shop.
The trouble started on March 2 when Latheef received a container carrying imported furniture. He had informed the union leaders about the consignment two days in advance because he had an agreement with the shipping company to finish the unloading within a set time.
No labourer came to the work until 7 pm, causing Latheef to pay Rs 10,000 to the shipping company as fine for holding up the container. He called up the union leaders several times but nobody ever came.
At last, Latheef and his brothers started to unload the furniture themselves. As if on cue, the workers materialized and demanded remuneration for the work they would not do, the notorious 'nokku kooli' as it is called in local parlance.
They even had the gall to tell Latheef that they were not in a position to work because they were drunk! Latheef and his brothers did all the work themselves.
All hell broke loose the next day when a gang of porters went to the shop and intimidated the staff. They said they were accompanied by a murder accused and it was wise to pay them the money for watching the entrepreneur work.
They returned the next day and threatened to bump off Latheef if he refused to pay up. They almost manhandled him in the presence of his parents and his sister-in-law.
Read more: Thiruvananthapuram news