Thousands of need based, casual workers feel cheated
JAMMU, Feb 19: Thousands of need based and casual labourers working in various departments for over a decade now feel cheated after the Government failed to regularize their services though the same was announced by then People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) coalition in 2017 with much drum beating.
The previous regime led by Mehbooba Mufti had started a process in this regard by seeking the data from all departmental heads for regularization of these hapless workers who are working in various engineering departments like Public Health Engineering,(PHE), Power Development Department (PDD), Roads and Buildings Department (R&B) etc. The then Government had also framed a policy in this regard which fell through after its fall.
The previous Government as a policy matter had decided to regularize the services of 62,000 daily rated workers in the then State who were engaged in various departments for last two decades from time to time. The process was set in motion and the directives were issued to all heads of departments to frame the lists of the eligible workers who had completed over 10 years services on the basis of treasury vouchers against which the wages were released in their favour.
According to sources, however the number of the workers exceeded on ground over one lakh who were engaged in various departments and were not regularized till date. To make the process foolproof, the Government decided that the orders of regularization be issued on the basis of treasury vouchers. However, some casual and need based workers were not provided wages for years together and hence they could not produce the treasury receipts in support of their claim, sources added.
To substantiate the claims of the casual and need based workers that they were working in concerned department for over a decade who were not given wages for years together, the Government decided that first and last treasury receipts be placed by the concerned Drawing and Disbursing Officer with the case to authenticate that the incumbent was working in the Department for last 10 years. This process was going on when the coalition Government fell and the Governor’s rule was imposed in the erstwhile State and later the process was shelved.
Fed up with the callousness of the Government, the daily wagers were left with no alternative but resorted to agitational path and PHE workers in support of their demands have suspended the work by disturbing the water supply also to turn the Government’s attention towards their demand.
Accusing the Government of total betrayal, the causal laborers of PHE alleged that Government sans a proper policy decision in this regard. He said what to talk of regularization even the wages of causal and need based workers were pending for last four to five years with respective departments.
Kartar Chand, a casual laborer of PHE said “We have protested in front of Chief Engineer’s office and at Civil Secretariat but to no avail and now the workers who have even turned overaged have lost all patience as after serving the respective departments over a decade our future is totally bleak’’. He asked “What can be worst kind of violation of human rights that the Government is paying Rs 225 wages to a worker per day while per day rate of an unskilled laborer in private sector is from Rs 500 to Rs 600’’.
Maintaining that all the causal laborers working in respective Government departments are technical hands and they deserve to be paid the highest rate, he said the Government has become so callous that it failed to pay the wages to the daily rated workers at the same scale as is paid in other UTs of the country.
Supporting the views of his colleague Subash Verma, another daily rated worker of PHE demanded immediate release of wages of the casual and need based workers which are pending for last five years in the PHE. He also demanded that in the event of the death of a casual or need based worker his next kin be given a job and all the workers be regularised after five years of service.
Akhil Sharma a representative of casual laborers of PDD said that there are over 11000 casual laborers in PDD alone and 4000 were made permanent while over 8000 are still waiting. Even their wages are pending for last eight years, he added.
He said the wages are released on the occasion of festivals like Eid, Diwali, Holi etc and there is no body who can listen to their woes in the Government. “We are treated worst than bonded laborers’’.
SRO 520 framed by PDP-BJP coalition for regularization of casual and need based workers was to be implemented from January 1, 2018. Alone 7000 files were submitted by PHE to Administrative Department in Civil Secretariat but not a single case was finalized till date. He said as per official figures there are 22053 daily wagers in PHE. He said after converting the State into UT the process has been shelved completely.
He demanded regularization, monthly release of wages and implementation of Central Government Wage Act in J&K UT under which minimum wages are Rs 520 per day.
Mir Ghulam Rasool Butwani a veteran Trade Union leader and president Pensioners and Senior Citizens Welfare Forum also held the Government responsible for the plight of casual and need based workers. He said there is no policy programme before the Government in this regard. “How can it be justified that a daily rated worker is paid Rs 150 per day under such hard days of life when prices have touched the peak?” he asked. He said it is totally injustice with these hapless people who till recently were only paid Rs 150 per day which has been now increased to Rs 225 per day which is also less than minimum wages paid in other UTs.
The Government should frame a minimum wage as well as regularization policy for the workers so that these people don’t get exploited in future, he added.
Justifying the cause of casual and need based workers, Mohammed Maqbool Ganai, president, Coordination Committee Trade Unions (CCTU) alleged that there is neither any wage policy nor regularization policy on which Government can act.
He said practically the working class was demanding regularization as per SRO 64 on Class Fourth basis and SRO 520 under which much hype was given by previous PDP-BJP Government to the regularization of 62,000 casual and need based workers is basically wage policy. The Government said 62,000 workers will be regularized under SRPO 520 when actually there number rose to 1,0,5000, he added.
Ganai said the SRO 520 after the fall of political Government in the J&K has been kept on hold and the instructions were given to Departments by the Chief Secretary of J&K in this regard due to which causal and temporary workers suffered and they are on roads. He demanded immediate settlement of the issue.
When contacted A K Mehta Commissioner/ Secretary, Finance said that State has been converted into UT and it will take some time till new rules are framed. This is the reason for delaying regularization process, he added.
Chief Engineer PHE Kashmir, Abdul Wahid said that under SRO 520 the eligibility criteria list has since been submitted to the Administrative Department in Civil Secretariat and the cases are being scrutinized at Secretariat level. He said in PHE Kashmir alone there are over 10,000 casual and need based workers besides those who had donated land to Department for water supply schemes. He said this Government has released wages of one year in full in favour of these workers and Rs 80 crore were released this year as against Rs 30 crore last year.