Around five years ago, Mohammad Aurangzeb, a physics honours graduate, came to the capital from Bihar’s Jehanabad district in search of employment. On September 1, 2011, Alam started working as a toll collector at the Delhi-Noida Direct (DND) Flyway.
Following a recent Supreme Court ruling that the concessionaire, Noida Toll Bridge Company Limited (NTBCL), was not entitled to charge toll any more since it had “recovered all reasonable returns” from the bridge, Alam was told by the company that his services were no longer needed.
Living in a two-room flat in Mayur Vihar, Alam pays a monthly rent of Rs 4,000. “The company told us we will get 15 days’ salary for the next three months. This amounts to Rs 4,500 per month. I live with my brother and I am the only earning member. I have to send money back home every month. How will I survive on this much?” he asked.
According to NTBCL sources, over 400 people had been employed in the functioning of the DND flyway as toll operators, security and maintenance personnel. Now, most of them have been rendered jobless. “The primary source of income was the toll that used to be collected. Most of these 400 employees have been laid off since we do not have the resources to sustain them. The operations at the toll plaza and the office have become minimal. Only a few of them have been retained. Steps to help the employees have been taken in tune with labour laws,” a source said.
Noida authority officials said the matter was still sub-judice and that they were awaiting court developments for information about the agency, which will be responsible for DND’s maintenance. “The matter is pending in court. Legal opinion on certain sections of the DND MoU following the court order is awaited. Moreover, division of the flyway between Delhi and Noida authorities also needs to be ascertained,” a senior official said.
With an audit of the DND operations underway along with the legal tussle, around 400 employees have been left in the lurch. While DND officials did not elaborate on the measures they have taken for their employees, they maintained that they have been asked to visit the office twice a week for which they will be given half a month’s salary.
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Earlier this month, 21-year-old Manish Kumar said, he was called to the office and offered an agreement. “I refused to sign. Later, if the DND toll plaza is made operational again, the company might claim that we were not their employees. They were also asking us to hand over our uniform,” Kumar said. Last year, Kumar dropped out of college and took up a DND toll operator’s job to sustain his family. “I have been working at DND for nearly a year. My elder brother does not have a job and my parents are not employed. I was pursuing BA Honours in Hindi at Deshbandhu College but I had to drop out,” he said.
Last week, a group of DND employees gathered at the flyway to stage a protest against the termination letters issued to them. Reading out the notice, an employee said, “In view of the current scenario, your services have become redundant and dispensable as the work for which you were employed has stopped…”
A 29-year-old employee, who received a similar notice and hails from Bihar’s Chhapra district, said, “Before this, I used to work as a laboratory technician in Meerut. I received technical training from Chennai after finishing high school a couple of years ago. I am looking for another job now. You can have several degrees but you do not get employed without a recommendation. I don’t have contacts. If nothing works out, I will work as a daily wage worker. If I don’t earn, how will I eat?”