Public sympathy and unqualified support was there for the asking for trade unions and labour leaders when India gained Independence. They were treated as living legends and welcomed into corporate circles and political forums openly. Nationalisation of important services (railways, banking, insurance, power, posts and telegraph, aviation, docks and ports etc.) and core sector activities have paid dividends initially. Thanks to MS Swaminathan, the agricultural sector flourished during 60's and 70's. The industrial sector, unfortunately, failed to deliver the goods on all fronts. To cite an example, absence of competition has led to the government-owned insurance companies becoming slothful, unproductive and expensive to the customers (premium on life insurance is nearly 40 percent more in India than in any developed country because the Life Insurance Corporation has to compulsorily invest in government securities). The entire decade of the 1970s was lost to empty slogans like 'Garibi Hatao'. The socialist leanings of Mrs. Gandhi did not take the nation to 'commanding heights'. Absence of competition, administrative
controls, licensing restrictions, pro-labour policies, were the hallmarks of 1970s and 1980s. Owners were inward looking, focusing more on lobbying than on achieving production
efficiency through investments in R & D, technology upgradation and total quality management. Assured jobs, weak employers, pro-labour government policies and collective strength of numbers have encouraged labour to be vociferous and demanding. Ever apprehensive of rubbing the unions the wrong way, governments-especially when elections are round the corner – preferred the velvet glove to the iron fist when dealing with unions. Secure jobs, high wages, absence of accountability and contempt for authority is what the workers of a public sector undertaking have come to personify. These employees (10% of Organised labour harming the interests of the remaining 90%) have held the country to ransom for far too long. They were, all along, inward-looking, resistant to change and always talked about their rights and not their duties.
The process of socio-political and economic churning that was forced upon the country in the early 90's – thanks to Mandal, Mandir and Manmohan (Economic Liberalisation) – has engulfed virtually every aspect of the nation's life. The Labour Unions during this period failed to catch up with the times. Their refusal to refocus their aims, or even acknowledge the need to change, has led to their irrelevance and alienation from those very sections of the Indian society whose support helped them grow.

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