Skip to main content

Egalitarian ethic? Delhi's National Law varsity 'violates' labour laws, human rights

By Vidushi Prajapati, Ekta Tomar, Sandeep Pandey*
What is the obligation of an academic community, especially in a law school, when sanitation workers on campus, who have been working since its inception in 2008, are removed by the National Law University (NLU), Delhi, on the pretext of changing the contractor as required by an audit objection?
Since the workers were initially hired on contractual basis rather than being kept on a permanent roll despite the indispensable nature of their invested labour to keep university functioning, a patent argument through which the institutions justify their acts is that they are “not responsible” towards such workers as they are not their direct employers.
Right from the outset, the University took frequent refuge under the excuse that only direct payment of salary is a test of ascertaining the employer-employee relationship. It declared the demand of workers seeking employment as illegal, while being oblivious of the gross illegalities at its end such as non-existence of a formal written contract with the erstwhile contractors (WhiteFox Support Services and Golden Expert Services) and more importantly continuous renewal of such a contract for 12 odd years (Audit Objection, 2015 CAG Report).
The case of wrongful removal of Safai Karamcharis is a perfect example of the dual character of bourgeois spaces such as the law university where, under the garb of being the upholder of egalitarian principles, it has time and again committed labour laws and human rights violations.
Ironically, the registrar in a letter addressed to the Office of Minister of Labour and Employment of Delhi government states, “Since the University is a Law University and teaches its students the social aspect of law also, the administration impressed upon the contractor to ensure that nobody already employed by the previous contractor gets unemployed.”
Such premiere institutions have undoubtedly monopolized spaces which guarantee absolute protection to class bias and privilege. The entrance examinations aptly showcase the intention of allowing only a certain class of students while depriving the downtrodden, leaving them in the lurch to fend for themselves, thereby inevitably making the underprivileged feel that they weren’t born for such spaces be it in the form of students or workers.
While the middle class is known for recusing itself in situations which demand a strong dissenting voice such as the case of mass unemployment of these workers who put in their sweat and blood in laying the foundation of this university, the intelligentsia and the academia who is aware of the systemic problem of widespread poverty, unemployment, hunger and malnutrition amongst the working class have also been consistently turning a blind eye towards such issues. They don't want to be seen taking sides in a 'controversial' issue.
Most, dominated by status quo-ist tendency, would tend to think that administration must be right and must be acting within the confines of law and following all rules scrupulously, in the process failing to understand that how often by virtue of its stature, it is able to get away conveniently without having to follow the law and more importantly, the limitations of law itself.
Despite having a higher moral duty to discharge on account of being more aware and having various resources at disposal, the academia comprising of - students, researchers, faculty and administration of this esteemed university has failed massively in widening space for exhaustive discussions and debates premised on a dialectical outlook on a range of social issues culminating in the class based structure of the society.
NLU Safai Karmacharis' protest against suspension in Feb 2020
In contrast, the systematic culture of silence maintained over issues plaguing the oppressed are kept at bay. The discussion on such issues remains confined to conferences organized within four walls of a room. The crucial role played by groundwork which establishes a connect with the masses continues to remain unrecognized till date.
Unless something directly affects their interest, elites are immune to what goes on around them. Parents, teachers and administration keep advising their students to concentrate on studies in order to successfully complete their degree so that they can get ensconced. Careerist thinking dominates the middle-class mindset. They are averse to taking risks, especially if it can cause harm to their material well being.
For law students, it is imperative that no law of land is violated if they believe that the purpose of their vocation is to uphold justice
Therefore, with the backing of such powerful institutions such as family, academia and administration, the students studying in premier institutions hardly find the need to think about the broken and dilapidated system they are thriving in unlike the impoverished who are being continuously oppressed and have no choice but to resist. Dripping with self-interest, the students choose to limit their actions to either indifference or pity when they are actually capable of holding systems accountable.
But if one honestly examines the purpose of our academic pursuits, one is bound to question our self-serving attitude. A human being doesn't live in isolation. S(he) is a social being and part of the society, well being of which is necessary for the individual wellness. 
In fact, the ideal state is complete harmony among different states of human living – individual, family, society and nature. If either of them gets disbalanced, the disturbances are bound to affect the others.
Hence if the purpose of life in general and our academic activity, in particular, is to create a better society devoid of inequality then it becomes impossible for us to ignore the distress of human beings around us just like it would be difficult for us to ignore an ill person in our family.
An individualized way of thinking is as deadly as oppression itself. It is time that we observe the sufferers struggling around us from an objective lens, make efforts for understanding the root cause of issues, understand the unflinching character of dissent and raise our voice against any injustice around us, even if one has to pay a price for it.
For law students, it becomes even more imperative that no law of land is violated if they believe that the purpose of their vocation is to uphold justice and not just make a career for themselves. The knowledge that they are acquiring is not meant to be archived, but to be used when the time demands. And one has to start from the immediate surrounding.
When knowledge doesn’t translate into pure, rational and powerful action, a question must be put on the pedagogy. There can be no better internship opportunity for law students than to examine the application of laws on their campus.
Those who are involved will come out with an enriched experience and as more sensitised individuals who'll henceforth put in their efforts to improve their surroundings so that nobody's rights are violated. Those who'll shut their eyes to the injustice will live in cocoons most of their lives maybe with material opulence but poorer in emotional satisfaction which one derives from the application of one's knowledge and skills for the betterment of larger society.
The academic community should have in fact played a more active role in resolving this crisis in a more innovative way taking human consciousness to a higher level. For example, a group of professors and students came together to form a Workers' Cooperative on Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur campus when a similar problem arose in the early 1990s. The workers' cooperative is still functional on the IIT Kanpur campus for garbage collection work.
We hope that academic community of National Law University, Delhi, would follow the vision and mission of National Academy of Legal Studies And Research  (NALSAR), Hyderabad, from where its current Vice-Chancellor came and is credited with founding both institutions of eminence in law education. 
The Vision stated on the front wall of the main building of the NALSAR University of Law is “To bridge the divide between law and justice; support the most marginalised and excluded in their struggles and advocate for the rights of all.” The Mission is “To undertake the activities of the University in such a manner as to advocate social justice.”
---
*Vidushi Prajapati and Ekta Tomar are 4th year LLB students at National Law University (NLU), Delhi; Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay award winning social activist, is visiting faculty at NLU, Delhi, for the current semester

Comments

TRENDING

Whither Govt of India strategy to reduce import dependence on crude oil, natural gas?

By NS Venkataraman*  India presently imports around 80% of it’s crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements . As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern. This is particularly so, since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating / increasing in the global market due to geo political factors, which are beyond the control of India. India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which mean that the level of emission has to start declining at slow and steady rate from now onwards. It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur

Muslim intellectuals met Bhagwat, extra-constitutional authority 'like Sanjay Gandhi'

By Shamsul Islam*  In a significant development a delegation of five Muslim intellectuals namely former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi; former senior bureaucrat Najeeb Jung; former AMU vice-chancellor and Lt Gen (retd) Zameer U Shah; politician-cum-journalist Shahid Siddiqui (presently with RLD); and businessman Saeed Shervani [Samajvadi Party] met RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat at RSS Delhi headquarters. The meeting was kept secret for reasons known to the participants and was held in August. According to the Muslim intellectuals the meeting held in “a very cordial” atmosphere continued for 75 minutes whereas time allotted was 30 minutes! In a post-meeting justification of the parleys Quraishi stated that their main concern was “the insecurity being increasingly felt by the Muslim community in the wake of recurring incidents of lynching of innocents, calls by Hindutva hotheads for genocide and the marginalisation of the community in almost every sphere”. This delegation consistin

'Massive concern for people': Modi seeking to turn India into global manufacturing hub

By Shankar Sharma*  The news item quoting Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet, "Want to turn India into a manufacturing hub: PM Modi at SCO Summit" should be of massive concern to our people. One can only continue to be shocked by such policies, which can be termed as ill-conceived to say the least. Without objectively considering the environmental and social impacts on our communities in the medium to long term, such policies will also result in massive economic impacts because a lack of environmental and social perspective cannot be economically attractive either. In order to become the global manufacturing hub, India will have to meet an enormous demand for energy of various kinds, and in order to meet this much energy demand the economy has to manufacture enormous number of appliances/ gadgets/ machineries (to generate and distribute commercial forms of energy such as coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, and renewable energy (RE) sources such as so

Denying dissent democratic space in Gujarat: 'sad narrative of eroding ethical values'

By Sandeep Pandey*  A padyatra (foot march) was to be taken out between 26 September and 4 October, 2022 from Randhikpur village in Dahod district of Gujarat to Ahmedabad to apologise to Bilkis Bano. Randhikpur is Bilkis Bano’s village. In 2002 Gujarat communal violence she was gang raped, her 3 years old daughter, another child in womb and a total of 14 family members were killed. 11 people were convicted and sentenced for life in 2008. However, on 15 August, 2022 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a speech from Red Fort appealing to people to change their attitude towards women and treat them with respect, a district level committee of Panchmahal decided to release the 11 rapists and murderers. A Bhartiya Janata Party leader described four of these criminals as virtuous Brahmins. Before the padyatra could begin from Randhikpur, on 25 September night, 7 activists were picked up from Godhra corporator Hanif Kalandar’s house where they had gone for d

Pesticide companies' lobbying 'seriously impairing' basics of governance, regulation

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi*  The Indian agricultural sector is grappling with low incomes, shortage of natural resources, increasing pest incidence and low public investments in research and extension. Pest attacks are increasing. Previously unknown pests are attacking crops. Farmers, indebted as they are due to various market mechanisms, are finding it hard to protect their crop investments. Thus, farmers are pushed into the conundrum of pesticide usage by pesticide markets and companies. Pesticide usage in India is increasingly becoming a regulatory problem. Regulation has not been effective in the face of such challenges. Scientific expertise on pesticides is often subsumed in the policy tradeoffs that, in the ultimate scenario, encourage production and marketing of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). Expert Committee reports, which are recommending withdrawal of certain HHPs, are not being acted upon. Lobbying by pesticide companies has seriously impaired the basics of governance an

Kerala health bill public hearing? Here the minister 'ensured' cameras were turned off

By Our Representative  On Friday, September 30, 2022, about 100 members of the general public gathered at the conference room of the collectorate at Ernakulam, Kerala, to express their apprehensions about the Kerala Public Health Bill, 2021, which the state assembly referred to a 15-member select committee chaired by state health and family welfare minister, Veena George. Minister Veena George asserted at the outset that this was a sitting of the select committee, and all cameras would need to be turned off. Advocate PA Pouran, general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in Kerala, stood up in protest, arguing that the meeting was a public hearing and should ideally be televised to reach vast numbers of people. Other members of the audience protested too, but the minister insisted that the gathering was part of a sitting of the select committee.  “Why then did you invite all of us?” protested George Mathew, who had arrived from Aluva and earlier served as a member of t

How Gandhian values have become 'casualty' in India under majoritarian BJP rule

By Sandeep Pandey*  A Muslim youth was beaten recently when he tried to witness the famous garba performance during the Hindu religious nine days festival of Navratri in Gujarat. There was a time when Muslims could easily participate in Garbha events in an atmosphere of cordiality. Bilkis Bano was gang raped in 2002 Gujarat communal violence, her 3 years old daughter, the child in womb and a total of 14 family members were killed. 11 accused were awarded life term. However, recently a District level committee has decided to release all the culprits. A ruling Bhartiya Janata Party leader has described some of these criminals as virtuous Brahmins, the highest among the Hindu hierarchical caste system. In a communally polarized Gujarat today most Muslims feel offended by the decision of the government and BJP supporters either justify the release of rapists and murderers or just ignore the ignominious decision. Mahatma Gandhi came from the Guj

GoI 'feeling threatened' by forces which can potentially fight 'Brahmanical fascism'

Counterview Desk  A network of civil rights and people’s organisations , Campaign Against State Repression (CASR)*, has characterised the recently-imposed ban on Popular Front of India (PFI), National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations (NCHRO) and other organisations as “Brahmanical Hindutva fascist” move of the Government of India (GoI), calling it “onslaught on democratic dissent”. In a statement, CASR said, the move is aimed at terrorizing and vilifying the Muslim community, adding, at the same time, the GoI is curbing any protest and demonstration against the “fascist diktat of ban”, with peoplebeing “detained and arrested.” It added, “This kind of attack on right to oppose or criticize any step of government should be conceived as an attack on the very democratic values of the people.” Text : On 28 September 2022, Central Government led by BJP-RSS banned the Popular Front of India, National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations, Campus Front of India, National Wom

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”