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No salary for 2 months, hundreds of Delhi safai karmacharis sacked: Public hearing told

By Sanjeev Kumar* 

Hundreds of contractual sewer workers from different zones of Delhi, working under Delhi Jal Board have been removed without any prior notice in the past month. Most of these workers, who have been working since the past 10-15 years, were not given their salary for the last 2 months and were suddenly removed from their jobs this month.
No notice was issued by the authorities, and shocked by the sudden removal of hundreds of workers, there was a Public Hearing held at the Constitution Club of India, New Delhi on 28th December 2023.
Around 300 workers from all across Delhi gathered for a public hearing, organised by Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM) in collaboration with other civil rights groups, sharing their grievances to the jury panel and the audience. The testimonies given by the workers revealed shocking realities of their working conditions.
Workers from Pritampura, West Delhi, said they were never told what their exact salary was and were paid in cash without any receipt by the supervisor. A worker, who chose to stay anonymous, said, “We have been working for 15 years, many contractors come and go, but we have to fight for our daily wage of Rs  450!” A worker working in Navjeevan Vihar added, he did not get his salary even for Diwali and Dussehra and his family has been surviving on loan since then.
A worker from Kalkaji, South Delhi, said he was suddenly removed from his job on 7th December without any prior notice or reason. In another case, a worker, from Eidgah store, approached the government authorities on non-payment of salary, but after the complaint was filed he was removed from his job and has not been hired by any contractor since then.
Such intimidation tactics are used by contractors which stops the workers from voicing their concerns.
Sanjay Gehlot, chairman, Delhi Commission for Safai Karamcharis, who was part of the jury, took cognisance of the plight of the issues and assured that he would take immediate action to release the due payment and ensure that their jobs are secured.
Senior Supreme Court lawyer Colin Gonsalves, who was also part of the jury panel, told the workers, “Removing you without notice is illegal! Giving your salary in cash is illegal! Not giving you your complete salary is illegal!”
A worker approached the authorities on non-payment of salary, but after the complaint was filed, he was removed from his job
Other jury panel members were former MP and Vice-President, All India Kisan Sabha Hannan Mollah; Member of the State-level Shelter Monitoring Committee Indu Prakash Singh; National Secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Amitava Guha; Director of the Centre for Workers Management Dithhi Bhattacharya, ; social worker Anil Varghese; advocate Harnam Singh, who is also Chairperson, Monitoring Committee, Delhi High Court; and Meena Kotwal, founding editor, "The Mooknayak".
They heard the testimonies of 15 workers and gave the following recommendations:
  • Reinstatement of all contractual sewer workers and payment of all pending dues including wages, Provident funds and other social securities.
  • As per the minimum wages notification of Delhi government for unskilled labour (dated: 1st october 2022), workers must be paid a minimum wages of at least ₹ 17,494 per month.
  • While appreciating the effort of the Aam Aadmi Party government to regularize 700 contractual workers of DJB, they must regularize all contractual employees who have worked for more than 240 days and the gaps in employment should be considered a sham and bogus.
  • Implementation of court orders of writ petition (Civil) 5232/2007 in letter and spirit. Also implementation of the Supreme Court orders dated 20/10/2023 recommending payment of ex gratia of ₹30 lakh in case of death. The Jury also recommends that the compensation be paid immediately without any delay.
  • ESI and Identity Card for all workers in all sectors.
  • Provision of scholarship for children of sewer workers in educational institutions.
Union leaders decided to approach the CEO of the Delhi Jal Board with these recommendations and the workers decided to gather at the DJB Varunalaya till they are given their due salary and given their jobs back.
Other organisations which helped organise the public hearing included Municipal Workers Lal Jhanda Union (CITU), Delhi Jal Board Sewer Department Mazdoor Sangathan, All DJB Employees Welfare Association, Jal Mal Kaamgaar Sangharsh Morcha, Delhi Jal Board Karamchari Union, National Campaign for Dignity and Rights of Sewerage and Allied Workers (NCDRSAW), Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre (PMARC), Sewerage and Allied Workers Forum (SSKM), Vimarsh Media and Magadh Foundation.
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*Secretary, Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM); convener, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM). Click here for public hearing report

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