Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Safar / Rabi-Ul Awwal 1422 H
May 2002
Volume 15-05 No:185

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Muslim Perspective


The Great Escape
There is still Hope

The Great Escape

Globalisation, and now Hindutva has triggered off a psychological trauma among Muslim employees in Public Sector Organisations, compelling them to opt for the Voluntary Retirement Scheme

By M.H.Lakdawala

First Globalisation and now Hindutva is taking its toll on the Muslim employees in Public sector organisations. To escape the harassment, Muslim employees are thinking about opting for the Voluntary Retirement scheme (VRS). Rahim Baig,a third line manager with a textile mill opted for VRS only because post September 11, he was consistently targeted both by his superiors and juniors. “I was often asked embarrassing questions regarding Islam, and my loyalty to the nation, as if I was a terrorist. When harassment reached beyond my patience I took VRS and moved out”, he said.

Nazim Khan, a laboratory assistant in a sensitive government department was transferred to Nagpur as a punishment posting. Nazim’s crime? He is a Muslim, and unreliable to be in a sensitive department." Since my children’s education is in Muslim, all of a sudden I cannot shift to Nagpur. Instead I accepted an alternative offer of VRS,” said Khan. But VRS is no solution. It has its share of pitfalls. When asked why he did not opt for the handsome voluntary retirement package offered to him recently, Pervez Makhani, an engineer with Tata Electric said, “Quite simple. I habitually spend more than I can afford. If I get a huge amount of money, it’s very likely that I’ll squander it away.”

His candid response has ominous overtones. For, this could be the unforeseen-fallout for any number of people who will soon be receiving a big chunk of money—anywhere from Rs 10 to 20 lakh—as an early severance pay-out. Companies across the board, from multi-nationals to public sector banks, have started launching VRS or voluntary retirement schemes for their manager cadres.

Nazim Khan, a laboratory assistant in a sensitive government department was transferred to Nagpur as a punishment posting. Nazim’s crime? He is a Muslim, and unreliable to be in a sensitive department.


And, apart from the psychological trauma of knowing that you now qualify as ‘flab’, people are confounded about how to re-orient their finances. As Shilpa Sheth, a human resources consultant says, “It’s not easy to know that you will not get that pay check at the end of the month, especially since corporate salaries have become so comfortable. It’s not easy to downgrade your lifestyle.” The private sector apart, public sector banks recently launched an unprecedented, and somewhat controversial, VRS drive to prepare for a leaner, meaner, tech-savvy world. About 10 per cent of the 80-lakh strong PSU bank workforce has already opted to accept lump-sum ex-gratia payouts of an average of Rs 8 lakh, based on preliminary feedback. VRS—which stands for early (though not always voluntary) retirement schemes—is no longer a factory worker’s worst nightmare.

It is increasingly making its way up the ranks. Senior and middle managers, from multinationals to public sector banks, are being forced to confront the big question: Given the option, should we cash out? Muslims are vulnerable as many a time, they face discrimination and harassment if the boss happens to be a hindutvavadi. No doubt many companies are giving very attractive package for VRS which at first hand look more than sufficient for a retired life. But try telling that to a 45-year-old sales manager who has spent the last ten years marketing cough drops, or a banker who has been wedded for life to a dog-eared ledger, and it may not go down too well.Reflecting perhaps a widespread view, 45-year-old Abdul Rashid a manager at Union Bank of India says, “I’m not interested in just getting Rs 19 lakh and sitting at home. I need to occupy myself.” And what about getting re-employed? “Forget it. There is a glut in the market. For every job today, there are ten good applicants,’’ he shoots back.

Besides, there is clearly a stigma attached to being unemployed mid-career—even if the reason for losing one’s job is entirely circumstantial. Junaid Khan, a general manager with a television software production company said, “In the West, people being interviewed will merrily say, ‘I’ve been downsized’ because it’s such a common thing. Here, because it’s still new, people will disguise the fact with ‘I’m in transition’ or ‘I’ve given myself compulsory vacation’.” Shilpa Sheth, the HR consultant of Shilputsi muses, “One has heard of people bursting into tears when they heard that their company was planning to introduce VRS or close down a division.

This whole thing can be psychologically, socially and financially very painful. Then again, this is the reality and it’s high time we get used to it.” She adds that companies should focus a little more on retraining to ensure re-employment ability. Indeed, that slogan-“reinvent yourself or die”—which has hit a number of companies in the face, is taking its time to filter down to the individual. Consultants, as well as those who have been affected by the new trend, urge that people must change their attitudes to their careers. No doubt there are few who manage to implement their plans effectively and successfully after retirement. Says Javid Shah, who quit as chief of an Indian Pharma company which was taken over by a multi-national, and now runs a dotcom incubator,

“The interesting thing is that early retirement can actually be a much more powerful beginning rather than an end. How many people could have thought in terms of getting such a big chunk of money at one shot? It’s about changing a mindset and getting out of that comfort zone,” he says But there are thousands who are confronting questions that will not be resolved so easily. Karim Charania, Branch Manager with a nationalised Bank, last year opted for VRS on the face of consistent harassment by his clients and peers as he was a Muslim. Initially, he planned to start the hardware business in Surat, but business flopped and Charania lost 70 per cent of his VRS amount. “I am completely broke and uncertain about my future”, he said. Clearly, post-VRS prospects are not as easy as are being made out by company managements. As a PSU bank official puts it, “the real social impact of this is yet to be seen. This is just the beginning.” Although golden handshakes— the tired euphemism for getting paid to get out—are generally quite attractive, there is some concern that the money will be treated like a lottery windfall or end up in the wrong hands. As a senior bank official says, “Sometimes, tempted by high yields, people may be misguided into investments.

They may even get lured into putting the money in a friend or relative’s business.” Muslim employees are facing another problem. Most PSU banks and organisations, which are suddenly faced with a huge cash outflow, are offering only half the VRS payment in the form of cash. The rest stays with the bank in the form of either bonds or fixed deposits, which have a minimum lock-in period of three years. Muslim employees who are against taking any form of interest are in a dilemma. They have no other alternative, but accept the offer. As they do not take interest, they stand to lose a substantial amount. “It has long been touted as the ultimate panacea for corpulent organisations”, says the HRD manager of a nationalised bank. But the wider implications are frightening. Many employees spend their VRS packages on cars and luxuries.

The cash runs out, the expected job offers don’t materialise, and they start regretting their retirement. If loopholes are available, companies will be besieged by court cases and external pressures.

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There is still Hope

If the common Hindu is bestowed with affection by the common Muslims,
the Sangh Parivar agenda will never see the light of the day.

By A Staff Writer

In the first week of April, the weekly magazine, The Week, carried a cover story which suggested that Muslims are the new untouchables. The Asian Age carried an article on the op-ed page, in which the writer claims that many of Hindus he knows have begun to hate Muslims. The Outlook in its first April issue carried a story from Mumbai that Muslims are unwanted in cosmopolitan housing societies all over Mumbai. The issue here is not whether this is the truth. But the issue is that this only conveys one side of the story. In our country, still a majority of Hindus and Muslims live in peace and in complete harmony. Even in the interiors and hinterland, Hindus and Muslims have no problem with each other, working and living together. Salman Bankoti an exporter of Aluminum utensils who hails from Bankot in Konkan region said that there are many villages surrounding Bankot where there are a few houses of Muslims in the Hindu-dominated areas.

“They have never experienced any communal hatred from other communities,” he said. According to Salman, on the very second day, after the Godhra episode, the only mosque of his village was painted with the picture of Hindu deities. “The Hindus of the village themselves held an inquiry and discovered that that someone from outside the village had committed the act. The Hindus apologised and cleaned the Mosque wall and re-painted it with their own money. “There are only seven Muslim families in this Hindu-dominated village and they have very cordial relations with Hindus”, said Salman. Dr H.G. Desai eminent Gastroentrologist who comes from Gujarat said, “I feel the pain for those who suffered in the Gujarat carnage. I have myself organised some relief for Muslims living in the rescue camps. I do not hate Muslims.

Many of my patients are Muslims and they have complete faith in me”, he said. Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt expressed concern at the trend of rising communalism in India. Hindi film industry is a good example of communal harmony. “We do not have any problem here and we do not discriminate between a Hindu or Muslim. The real problem is with the police force that is becoming a tool in the hands of politicians.

One of the RSS agenda is to push the Muslim youth towards extremism and terrorism. It will require a great deal of patience from Muslims as they should not fall into the trap laid out by the RSS


The National Human Rights Commission report on Gujarat has clearly stated that this trend if left unchecked can become very dangerous,’’ he said. Islamic Voice conducted a random survey amongst the common Gujarati Hindus for their views on the issue and what they feel about the Muslims. Out of the total 58 respondents, only 3 said that they hate Muslims. But none said that they would cause any harm to any Muslim and condemned the carnage in Gujarat. When asked why they hate Muslims, Ashit Kapadia, a textile merchant said, “I actually do not like the life style of Muslims. A visit to Muslim area gives me the impression that they do not respect the sentiments and feeling of Majority community. Look how they sell beef, mutton and chicken on the roadside. Many Hindus pass by daily. It hurts their religious sentiments. That’s why I also do not respect Muslims”, he said. Suresh Mehta, a Pharma dealer opines that Muslims as a community are always demanding, they are so selfish. They only concentrate on their own community; their attitude, culture and their ethics suggests their narrow-minded mentality. “I have few Muslim friends, they are not only proud, but consider us Hindus as inferiors”, he said. Tejas Shah, a diamond merchant hates Muslim, as they do not follow the business and work ethics. “Muslim workers and businessmen always act smart and consider themselves as superior to Hindus,” he said. All these three respondents have minimum contact with the Muslims. It is high time that Muslims also do some self-introspection besides blaming the RSS.

Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) stated in a Hadith that, “one who cuts away from me, I instead try to come nearer to him”. The holy Prophet never preached hatred. He has always replied hate with love and care. It is long overdue Muslims of this nation opened up their heart for the fellow countrymen. Very rarely love is replied by hate. If the common Hindu is bestowed with affection by the common Muslims, the Sangh Parivar agenda will never see the light of the day. Yes, it is extremely difficult to preach patience to those who have seen their near and dear ones being burnt alive. But one of the RSS agenda is to push the Muslim youth towards extremism and terrorism. It will require a great deal of patience from Muslims as they should not fall into the trap laid out by the RSS.

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