MORE than a month after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation set up a three-member committee to verify the credentials of 2,700 conservancy workers before they can be appointed as permanent employees, the process of verification started this week. While many were relieved to finally be recognised as permanent employees, others complained that the officials are taking too long to check the documents and are likely to take a couple of weeks more. The committee was appointed after the Supreme Court dismissed the BMC’s plea opposing permanency of conservancy workers and as per the Industrial Tribunal’s orders, had to verify the credentials of the 2,700 contractual workers before making them permanent employees of the civic body.
A majority of them have been working with the solid waste management department and have been engaged in collecting garbage from across the city for the past decade or so. Deputy Municipal Commissioner Vijay Balamwar said: “We started the process Thursday and are planning to complete it within three days.”
Kalimuthu Rangaswamy (37), who moved to Mumbai from Tamil Nadu in 1996 and has been working as an NGO labourer since 2004, is among those who have already been accepted as a permanent employee after an extensive verification process. A resident of Bhagat Singh Nagar in Goregaon, Rangaswamy was relieved the minute civic officials accepted his documents. “I have spent more than 12 years lifting garbage in the city and we have fought hard to get the BMC to recognise us as its workers. Now that I am a permanent employee, my job will bring stability to my family. Unlike before, I can now take leave and be able to take better care of my wife and two children,” he said.
Others pointed out that on an average, the process takes almost an hour for an individual, due to which, many conservancy workers have to wait for the entire day before they are called. Perumalai Ellapan (29) was among the first to be accepted as a permanent employee. He said a team of six civic officials took an hour-and-a-half to complete the verification process for his application.
“I had provided four identification proofs, including Aadhaar card, PAN card, voter ID card and identity card of the union. Even then, they kept asking me for a school certificate and birth certificate. How many documents does one need to prove their identity? But I am happy that it is all over now and after 15 long years of service, the BMC has finally recognised us as permanent employees,” he said.
Milind Ranade, general secretary of the Kachra Vatuk Shramik Sangh (KVSS), said the BMC had not planned the verification process properly which led to needless delays. “At many centres in Andheri and Malad, there was no place for workers to sit and everyone had to sit on the footpath or on the road till it was their turn to go inside. The officials are taking around 45 minutes to an hour for each applicant. At this rate, the verification process of all 2,700 workers will take at least two weeks, if not more,” he said. Ranade added that until Saturday, the BMC was able to complete the verification process of around 800 workers.
Around 2,700 members of the KVSS union, who were paid allowances through contractor instead of wages, had approached the Industrial Tribunal in 2007 demanding that they be granted benefits of permanent employees, instead of being treated as contractual workers. The Industrial Tribunal, in 2014, ruled in favour of the conservancy workers and directed the BMC to extend the benefits and status of permanent workers to those who had completed 240 days of service from the date of joining and clear their arrears. The BMC had then challenged the order in the Bombay High Court and subsequently, approached the Supreme Court but was turned down by both courts.