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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Sad a law is needed to ensure basic rights, says Angadi Theru director on ‘Right to Sit’ Bill in Tamil Nadu

Vasantha Balan’s 2010 film shed light on the exploitation of youths from remote villages who are hired on contract by agents of big retail establishments.

Written by Janardhan Koushik | Chennai |
Updated: September 11, 2021 2:05:01 pm
Tamil Nadu government tabled a Bill in the Legislative Assembly on Monday mandating all shops to provide seating arrangements for salespersons. (Express)

Soon after the Tamil Nadu government tabled a Bill in the Legislative Assembly on Monday mandating all shops to provide seating arrangements for salespersons, social media was abuzz with comments on how the move was long overdue. Many were quick to point out that the movie ‘Angadi Theru’ had shed light on the issue a decade ago.

The acclaimed 2010 film depicted the exploitation of youths from remote villages in the state who are hired on contract by agents of big retail establishments. The hapless men and women are made to work for long hours on pitiful salaries. Angadi Theru was screened at several international festivals and bagged numerous awards.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, the movie’s Director Vasantha Balan welcomed the move but said it was painful to note that a law had to be brought in to ensure a basic human right. “I was wondering about the necessity of a law to provide a stool to a worker. If someone visits our house, it is basic human courtesy to ask them to take a seat, provide them a glass of water or enquire if they want something to eat,” he said.

“We are now in a situation where the government has to step in even to safeguard this culture. It’s very disheartening. On the other hand, I am really happy that the government is taking a closer look at these micro-level issues and addressing them,” Balan said.

The filmmaker remarked that the stool is not just an object but stands for an ideology. It represents the government directive to shop owners to treat employees with respect, provide them a proper salary, make them work only for eight hours and not suck their blood, he said.

“They cannot deploy an officer every day to check whether these shops and establishments are providing seating arrangements to employees. There are laws for everything in our country, but it’s more about how they are implemented on the ground. This so-called advanced society should realise that these workers are fellow human beings too. Workers in textile and gold showrooms won’t be seated throughout the eight hours. They need to stand up to exhibit a saree or product to the customers. We mustn’t take a narrow view of matters. This is a voice, a voice for their rights,” he said.

State Minister for Labour CV Ganesan had said the Amendment will be added after section 22 of the Tamil Nadu Shops and Establishments Act, 1947. The newly introduced Bill says, “The premises of every establishment shall have suitable seating arrangements for all employees so that they may take advantage of any opportunity to sit which may occur in the course of their work.”

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