Hundreds of Delhi Metro workers gathered on 10th July at Jantar-Mantar to protest against the gross violation of labor laws by the DMRC officials as well as the contract companies of the DMRC. It is worthy to note here that the contract workers of DMRC, including the ticket-vending operators, housekeepers and security guards, have been demanding for the payment of minimum wages, the facilities of ESI, PF, double rate payment for overtime, weekly-off and other facilities provided by the labor laws like the Contract Labor Act, 1971, Minimum Wages Act 1948, Workman's Compensation Act 1923, etc. The union of these contract workers, the Delhi Metro Kamgar Union (DMKU) has been organizing the contract workers of Delhi Metro for last 2 years and has achieved favorable verdict in a number of cases filed against the contract companies of the DMRC in the Labor Court. Despite these, the DMRC officials are involved with the contract companies in the gross violation of labor laws.
Against these violations of the labor legislation, hundreds of DMRC workers gathered at the Jantar-Mantar and burnt the effigy of E.Sreedharan and the DMRC administration. The DMKU also submitted a charter of
demands with memorandum to the office of the Regional Labor Commissioner, with hundreds of signatures of DMRC workers. The workers contended that the contract companies like Bedi & Bedi, TRIG, All Services,
Prahari, A2Z, etc. are openly flouting the labor laws in the DMRC. These companies are the ones who have
been given the contract of operation of services like Ticket Office Machine (TOM), Security and Housekeeping. According to the latest notification of the Indian Government on minimum wages, the TOM operators should get around 8 thousand rupees as salary, however, these companies pay them only around 4,500 to 5,000 rupees. The housekeepers also are given only half of their legal minimum wages. The housekeepers generally do not get weekly off! The condition of the security guards also is pathetic. It is not as if the DMRC officials are not aware of the situation. However, they would not act despite the repeated demands by the DMKU and its member workers. As a consequence, the Union was not left with any other alternative but to embark upon the path of agitation. Mr. Ajay Swamy, the secretary of DMKU, said the DMRC is openly flouting all the labor laws and it has inadvertantly admitted this fact. Mr. Swamy said that in response to a RTI application, the DMRC has admitted that it does not have the records of the contract workers working as the station staff as well as the construction workers. DMRC wants us to believe that they are employees of the contractor, whereas the Contract Labor Act, 1971 clearly stipulates that the DMRC is principal employer here and the onus of ensuring the fair implementation of the labor laws is upon the DMRC. But if the DMRC does not even have the records of the contract workers, how can it ensure the implementation of the labor laws? Mr. Swamy said that this demonstration is a warning to the DMRC administration that if it continues to collude with the contract companies in flouting the labor laws and snatching away the legitimate rights of the workers, thousands of contract workers of DMRC will take to streets. This demonstration should act as a wake up call for the DMRC officials. Mr. Swamy said that the DMKU is fighting a number of cases of expelled DMRC workers.
Mr. Prem Prakash, convener of the Citizens For DMRC Workers' Rights (C4DMRCWR) said that the
contract companies not only violate the labor laws but also take bribes in the name of "security amount" from the workers at the time of their appointment. This so-called "security" can be anywhere between 40,000 to 70,000 rupees. This amount helps the contract companies to prevent the workers from demanding their rights, because the first year of the job is expent in recoverint that "security amount". So the workers become extremely vulnerable. Ms. Shivani Kaul of C4DMRCWR said that there is no articulate and expressed policy of expulsion or suspension followed by the companies. They can expel the workers at their whims and fancies. This also makes the condition of the workers extremely vulnerable. Ms. Kaul said that the citizens forum in the support of DMRC workers includes a number of eminent lawyers, civil rights activists, doctors, intellectuals and it is supporting the workers in availing legal expertise.
Various student and youth and women organizations as well as other labor unions came in open support of the DMKU and metro workers. These included Disha Student Organization, Naujwan Bharat Sabha, Stree
Mukti League and Karawal Nagar Mazdoor Union, Jhilmil Industrial Workers Union, etc. The
representatives of this organizations (Sunny Singh from Disha Student Organization, Yogesh from Naujwan
Bharat Sabha, Naveen of Karawal Nagar Mazdoor Union, and Shivani of Stree Mukti Sangthan) also addressed the workers. Leading democratic rights forum People's Union for Democratic Rights also extended its support to the cause of the DMRC workers. A number of PUDR representatives were present at the demonstration. The DMKU representative Praveen said that if the DMRC fails to follow the labor laws, the Union will file a petition against it and its contract companies. Praveen said that the Union has documentary as well as audiovisual proof of the fact that the DMRC in collusion with the contract companies is flouting the labor laws. And to silence the dissent, the DMRC and the contract companies have imposed a fascist dictatorship on the workers. But the workers have awakened now and any tyranny cannot stop them from winning over their rights.
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