We Were Sacked Without Notice or Salary, Say Workers of NLU Delhi
No prior formal notice was given to the workers.
In Delhi’s National Law University, students and workers alike have been protesting against the wrongful termination of NLU’s safai karamcharis. Around 150 students along with the terminated workers came together for a peaceful protest gathering at the University back gate from 9 pm to 1 am. The peaceful protest against what the students deem illegal termination marked its 38th day on 10 February.
On 31 December 2019, when the safai karamcharis came to the university to work, the administration closed the gates and stopped them from entering the campus. When the workers stood at the gate and urged the administration to let them in, the police was called.
The workers, completely shocked at the prospect of losing their sole means of survival, were threatened of police action and forced to disperse. No prior formal notice was given to the workers informing them of the termination of contract.
The new contract with respect to the safai karamcharis is also filled with legal discrepancies. The university, without conducting any manpower assessment, reduced the number of workers from 55 to 30. This reduction has taken its toll on the current workers, with many falling ill due to the enormous workload.
Further, the new tender also falls foul of the Delhi Govt Cabinet Resolution (circulated via letter No. F.10 (6)/PWD-1/ Misc./ 2016/ Vol. IV/ 14144 dated 09 October 2018) which mandates that at least 80 percent of the old workers should be retained under a new contractor.
The workers, along with the concerned students, have been protesting peacefully from 4 January demanding the administration retain all terminated workers and cancel the illegal contract with the new contractor.
All the protesting workers are facing a severe financial crunch. A majority of the workers are the sole breadwinners of their families and on average have four dependents. Almost half of the workers are female.
In order to sustain their families and continue the protests, some of the workers have resorted to selling vegetables, fast food etc to make ends meet.
Karamchaaris Show Courage Under Pressure
Ram Kumari didi, who has a partial visual impairment, says:
“Vice-Chancellor sir, Registrar sir used to say that they are always with us. Where are they now? We have been protesting for so many days but they are not coming to our aid. I gave everything to the University for all these years. In return of my hard work, I have been forced to sit here and protest. How will I feed my family? How will I run my home?”
She breaks down but continues, “I will not go anywhere. I will fight for my rights till my last breath.”
Ram Kumari didi is the sole breadwinner of the family. Her termination, she says, would severely affect her children and an ailing husband who has a heart problem.
Ironically, National Law University Delhi was ranked 3rd among ‘Cleanest Higher Educational Institutions 2019’ due to the hard work of the safai karamcharis. The workers were also paid Rs 1,000 in recognition of their contribution to the same, but only a few weeks later they were terminated.
Another worker, Raman bhaiya, highlights the difficulties faced by the protesting workers due to the unemployment:
“We live on rent. The entire responsibility of my mother and my brother rests on my shoulder. The landlord is asking for rent time and again. From where will we pay the rent? People are sick in our homes; it is cold out there. Many have also taken debt from other people. How will we pay them back? Earlier we used to pay it by giving half the portion of our salaries.”
He adds that it is tough to make ends meet for all his fellow workers.
“We cannot procure our daily ration. These problems are being faced by each and every worker who is protesting here.”
The night protest by the students was the first time in National Law University Delhi’s history that such a huge number turned out for a peaceful protest demonstration.
Keshav Kumar, an employee since 2012, says:
“I am working here since 2012. I am the sole earner of my family. I have four children and my wife to look after. I haven’t been able to pay my children’s tuition fees. I don’t have money for their education. I don’t have money for food. The shopkeepers are asking for money but I don’t have money for ration.”
He further states that workers were terminated without notice.
“We poor people should at least have been given our salaries. We were terminated without any notice. Neither company nor the University gave us any notice. Now where should we go in search of employment.”
Students stand with workers and protest with them for their demands to be heard and rights realised. Until the administration takes all the workers back, we will continue the protest.
(The Quint’s calls to NLU went unanswered. We have reached out to the Registrar and Vice Chancellor via email. This copy will be updated when there is a response.)
NLU Delhi’s Response to The Quint
In a written response to The Quint, NLU Delhi said that the University is not required to give any notice of termination to the housekeeping staff as the university hires the service provider and not the staff itself.
The full response can be viewed here:
(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)
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