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Chowkidars From Gujarat Demand Better Pay From ‘Desh Ke Chowkidar’

The guards receive Rs 10,000 as salary with no benefits or pension which relegates them to a hand-to-mouth existence

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India
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The BJP is rolling with the moniker ‘chowkidar’. Almost all BJP leaders are following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s footsteps by adding the blue-collar job title as a prefix on their Twitter handles. Meanwhile, the real chowkidars are on the streets demanding better pay and benefits.

On Thursday, 28 March, hundreds of security guards working under the Gujarat Industrial Security Force (GISF) took to the streets of Ahmedabad demanding a minimum pay of Rs 25,000 and scrapping of contractual employment for good.

The GISF was formed in 1997 and provides security cover to various government departments and offices across Gujarat.

Since its inception, GISF guards were only paid the minimum wage – and nothing more. According to some of the guards, they receive Rs 10,000 as salary with no benefits or pension. This reduces them to a hand-to-mouth existence.

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‘Rs 10,000 is Not Salary, It’s Peanuts’

A GISF security guard, Umesh Patil, who was leading the protests in Ahmedabad, told The Quint:

“The prime minister and the BJP leaders call themselves chowkidar and take home over a lakh in salary. We are grinding it out with a measly Rs 10,000 per month. They get all kinds of allowances from fuel to mobile recharge, whereas we must manage by reducing ourselves to a hand-to-mouth existence.”

“If they are the real chowkidars why can’t they protect our interests and give us better pay and pension on retirement? How can we manage a household in just Rs 10,000. It’s peanuts,” he said.

He added that the GISF guards want government wages, pension and other benefits.

Advocate Amrish Patel, who is the General Secretary of the Gujarat Federation of Trade Unions, organised the protest rally of security guards. According to Patel, when the NDA government was formed at the Centre, it promised a minimum wage of Rs 15,000.
“The Central government has stipulated a minimum wage of Rs 600 per day, where as in Gujarat it is still Rs 300. Why such discrepancy, especially when both the governments are run by the BJP? There are over 5,000 GISF security guards working across Gujarat and are receiving minimum wage for the last 22 years. What about their vikas?”
Amrish Patel, General Secretary, Gujarat Federation of Trade Unions
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Patel is also fighting for the guards’ wages in the labour court, but he believes that it’s the government’s responsibility to improve their standard of living.

“These are the same people who are stationed at government buildings, national monuments and religious places. For too long they have been ignored. But now that the government is hell bent on calling themselves ‘desh ka chowkidar’ , they might as well improve the lives of the real chowkidars,” he concluded.

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