University of Delhi (DU) saw an assembly of professors and teachers standing in solidarity with the safaikaramcharis who faced a threat of losing their jobs.
On the occasion of May Day, gate number four of the Arts Faculty of DU saw hundreds of safaikaramcharis (sanitation workers), professors and students assemble today in a protest to fight for the rights of the contract sanitation workers of the varsity who, working for over a decade, were now in a position to lose their jobs.
The protest saw active participation from various student organisations like Parivartankami Chhatra Sangathana (Pachhas), Students’ Federation of India (SFI), Krantikari Yuva Sangathan (KYS), Pinjra Tod and others.
Various student organisations and sanitation workers protested on May Day.
Since 2005, the safaikaramcharis had been contracted by the University administration – the principal employer – through a company called Sulabh International. However, the company, branded as a ‘social service organisation’, had allegedly not provided fair wages, bonuses and payments to savings and social security schemes like Provident Fund (PF) and Employees’ State Insurance (ESI) of the workers.
Moreover, with a shift of tender to a new company, Nexgen Manpower Services Pvt Ltd, a large number of safaikaramcharis were said to be in the danger of having their jobs laid off from 1st May onwards without any prior notice.
We were also told by Sumit Kataria, Vice President of SFI Delhi State, that some safaikaramcharis who had filed a labour court case against Sulabh International were being specifically targeted and denied jobs.
In light of all this, the protesters put forth the following demands: one, immediate reinstatement of jobs; two, permanent jobs for permanent work; three, payment of pending PF and ESI amounts.
The protesters gathered in front of the Arts Faculty building, where slogans were shouted, speeches were delivered and voices were raised. A memorandum, addressed to the Vice Chancellor, was submitted to the Deputy Proctor. The memorandum stated the aforementioned demands along with asking for payment of amount deducted from the salaries of the workers from August to October 2018.
Memorandum submitted by the safaikaramcharis to the University administration.
However, as told to DU Beat by Sumit Kataria, no firm response or assurance was given to the protesters by the administration. The administration supposedly told the protesters that they could only request both the companies to come to some form of agreement to provide jobs to the workers on ‘humanitarian’ grounds.
This was also reflected in a press release issued by Pinjra Tod today, which also read, “The workers made it clear that their struggle against the administration as the Principal Employer will continue and only intensify”. According to the press release, the protesters have also planned a signature campaign and a hunger strike in order to keep raising their demands.
Another statement by SFI read, “This struggle is also in order for the university to take back the 100 workers who were fired this year due to the changing of the contractor. It is also a struggle to realise the necessity and importance of the work done by the safaikarmacharis. It is the legal responsibility of the university to provide a stable workspace that provides financial security to its workers.”
Deepak, a member of Pachhas, said, “Poore desh ke andar thekedari ka kaam karaya ja raha hai, basically theke ki system ke khilaf ladai hai” (contractual work is prevalent across the country, this is a larger fight against contract-based work).
Image credits – Various