People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXIII

No. 5

February 15, 2009

 

UTTARAKHAND


Workers Stage Angry Demo At CM’s Residence

Virendra Bhandari


THOUSANDS of workers, belonging to more than two dozen CITU-affiliated unions, recently stages a militant, angry demonstration in front of the official residence of Uttarakhand chief minister, Bhuvan Chand Khanduri. State CITU president Satya Prakash led the action.

Coming from Ranikhet, Almora, Pantnagar, Khatima, Dineshpur, Rudrapur, Tehri, Kashipur, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Srinagar Pauri, Haridwar and Dehradun, these workers assembled in Gandhi Park, Dehradun, by 11 a m on January 20, before taking out a procession. But while they marched through the thoroughfares of the state capital, raising slogans against the central and state governments, the police barricades stopped hem near the police post. Here the processionists staged an angry demonstration before holding a public meeting on the spot.

Here the speakers detailed how the central and state governments have constantly been ignoring the grievances the Uttarakhand workers have been feeling. Contract workers are not getting all the facilities that are due to the regular workers, despite the directive issued by the state’s labour commissioner in May 2008. A fact finding team of the CITU spotted this violation in numerous factories and firms in the state. So much so that contract workers are not getting the declared minimum wage in the BSNL, a central government undertaking. Here they are being given a plain Rs 2,000 and there are no provisions for leave, provident fund and other social security provisions. Repeated meetings with the general manager in the state have not yielded any results.

The same situation prevails in the ordnance factory, Opto Electronics, IRDE, MES and other central undertakings. The ONGC and BHEL are not giving their contract workers the leave and ex-gratia as per the rules. Nor are these workers are getting any medical help and medicines from the ESI dispensaries. Many of these dispensaries do not have doctors either.

Apart from these facilities, the demonstrating workers also demanded that specific hospitals in the state be tied up for various diseases, but the state administration has failed to act so far.

Several power projects are underway in Uttarakhand, and the state and central governments have not taken any effective steps to get the labour laws properly implemented in these projects. A CITU fact finding team found that provisions regarding minimum wage, double overtime, pay slip and attendance card, leaves, project allowance and tunnel allowance are being violated with impunity, while the workers’ movement has ben able to force their implementation in the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh.

No wage board recommendation for daily workers and contract workers has been honoured in the sugar mills, and a worker is not declared a substitute worker even after having worked in the mill for several years.

As for the state road transport corporation, its former managing director, S S Rawat, had assured in the negotiations on October 19, 2008 that the Transport Workers Act would be implemented in case of the contract drivers and conductors as well. But nothing has come out so far. Violations are rampant in regard to uniforms, leaves and other labour law provisions. Still it is the contracting agency that is paying the wages, while the promise was that certain officials would personally ensure and supervise the payment of minimum wages. Drivers and conductors are not given any pay slips. They don’t have ESI cards either, while their ESI contributions are deducted from their wages. Their provident fund contributions are being deducted for years but they have not been given PF slips, nor do they know their PF codes. They are not paid due overtime and other allowances. The corporation does not issue OK slips or run the buses in accordance with the time table, with the result that while workers are compelled to remain idle for hours together, the people also suffer unnecessary hardships. The regular, agency and contract workers of the corporation are not paid the Rs 3,500 bonus that is due to them as per the Bonus Act. Workers are also demanding that the state government must reconstitute the Uttarakhand road transport corporation on the parent (Uttar Pradesh) model, abolish the agency and directly hire the agency workers as contract workers. The workers also demanded that vacancies in the corporation must be filled with the existing workers on the basis of seniority.

While the state government has implemented the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations for its departmental employees, it has denied the same to those working in the water corporation, transport corporation, forest corporation and other corporations under the state government. The corporations are thus being meted out step-motherly treatment, which the corporation workers are in no mood to bear. They are also demanding regularisation of those working on contract and daily wage basis for years together. Those having worked in these corporations for ten years must be given the salary scales, leaves, allowances and other facilities that are due to the regular workers.

Speakers at the public meeting also demanded that the state cabinet must pass the recommendations made in regard to the field workers in the potable water commission; this is an issue that has constantly been agitating these workers for over a year. The corporation as well as the Garhwal Water Undertaking have been hiring the pump operators on contract basis, but do not give them the statutory minimum wages. Provisions regarding minimum wage and regularisation of PTC employees are still pending and no PF contribution is deducted from their wages despite the directive from the High Court. The water minister, Maatbar Singh Kandaari’s instructions regarding the corporation’s field workers and PTC employees are being flouted with impunity.

The central government increased the honorarium paid to the Anganwadi workers and helpers by Rs 500 a month, from April 2008 onward, but the state government is still not paying the increment. This is despite the fact that the state receives the honorarium amounts from the centre. These workers and helpers have not to date been promoted though applications for promotion were invited from them two years back. In the Anganwadi centres, despite repeated protests, children are still being given sattu (parched and ground grain) in the name of nutritious food while this is harmful for children because of the state’s topography. Children are not allowed summer and winter vacations either.

The speakers at the rally raised the grievances of several other categories of workers as well:

1) Mid-day meal cooks are still deprived of minimum wages and social securities.

2) The Shops & Establishments Act, guaranteeing pay slips, bonus, leaves and leave cards, attendance registers, PF deductions etc, are still unimplemented in the petrol pumps.

3) The rules formulated by the central government are not being followed in case of those working under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

4) The state government has not to date fulfilled its assurance of enacting an act for the welfare of drivers and conductors under the private bus operators.

5) No wage board has been constituted for poultry workers, more than 50 engineering industries, medical representatives, etc. it was also demanded that the ban on medical representatives’ visit to government hospitals be ended forthwith.

6) Recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission have not yet been implemented for the workers in milk federations, or for workcharge employees in the irrigation, public works and some other departments.

7) An act regarding housing construction as been enacted but no cess is being collected over the billions of rupees generated in construction activities, with the result that construction workers are not getting any relief.

8) The government has so far not issued any notification even though it had announced a minimum wage of Rs 100 a day for agricultural workers.

9) No welfare centre has been established for the tea garden workers.

Speakers at the CITU rally also accused the BJP government of not having a single meeting with the trade unions, and demanded that a meeting with the central trade unions must be held forthwith.

Another demand was that, in view of the rise in the consumer price index since the Sixth Pay Commission gave its recommendations, the minimum wage must be Rs 6,000 a month, with a dearness allowance of Rs 5 per point rise. Moreover, pending a meeting of the minimum wage committee, the state government must announce some interim relief for various categories of workers. The rally also demanded the provision of mobile shops dispensing kerosene oil, cooking gas and subsidised ration for unorganised workers.


RUDRAPRAYAG:

WOMEN DEMONSTRATE

The Rudraprrayag district unit of the Janwadi Mahila Samiti (JMS), an affiliate of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), staged a demonstration at the district headquarters on January 13, on four burning issues they and the people in general are facing in the district. JMS district secretary Uma Nautiyal led the demonstration and, preceding it, the procession from Deendayal Park to Rudra Complex.

Corruption in the health department, free trade of illicit liquor, black-marketing on cooking gas and non-availability of potable water were the issues the demonstration highlighted.

The memorandum submitted to the deputy collector, for onward transmission to the chief minister, detailed the rampant corruption in the health department and demanded the health minister’s resignation. Later, at a press conference, Uma Nautiyal informed that Rs 2500 to Rs 9000 each were forcibly charged for operation from several pregnant women in the recent past. While some of them were given their money back after the issue got focussed in the media, and while two Class IV employees were suspended for hoodwinking the public opinion, the fact is that many persons from the district’s chief medical officer to the state’s health minister are involved in this racket. Hence the JMS also demanded immediate suspension of and action against the chief medical officer.

The demonstration also highlighted the evil of illicit liquor trade and gambling that are rampant in the district in connivance with the administration. This has become a source of troubles for the aged, women and children.

The shortage and black-marketing of cooking gas in the district is yet another weighty problem. LPG cylinders are being sold at exorbitant prices in the open market, while the consumers are facing harassment because there is no date fixed for cylinder distribution.

While the ministers and high officials are wasting the public money in all possible ways, the BJP government of the state has shedding tears over resource crunch whenever it was a question of giving pensions for the aged, handicapped and widows.

Availability of potable water has become a big problem in the state. While district collectors are getting water from the Rs 2.50 crore potable water project, common people are badly deprived of it.

One may note here that the JMS agitation compelled the district magistrate to order an enquiry into the allegation of corruption in the district hospital. It revealed the involvement of three doctors who used to extract money, through the lower hospital staff, from the patients or their relatives in the name of purchasing required medicines or surgical apparatuses. The administration has now asked the three doctors to clarify their position. However, the JMS takes it as an evidence of the state government’s corrupt character and is of the firm opinion that the evil is not confined to a few doctors; rather high officials and political leaders are also involved in it. That is why the organisation has decided to continue its agitation till the chief medical is suspended and the health minister resigns from the ministry.