Labourers claim NCRG officials take home grapes but no one objects
Four women farm labourers from the National Research Centre for Grapes (NRCG) in Manjari had to pay with their jobs for allegedly eating grapes while harvesting them. The NRCG terminated the contracts of the four,but the action has caught flak from the labour union. Even as they have demanded that the Regional Labour Commissioner intervene in the matter,a section of women labourers is demanding that the four be reinstated.
P G Adsule,director of NRCG,said on February 22,the four labourers Sangita Kamte,Sakharabai Madane,Laxmi Bhosale and Surekha Shendge were caught by the security guard while they were stealing grapes from a research plot (Block D3),where harvesting was in progress.
When the guard intervened,the women threatened him,Adsule said in a written reply to the Regional Labour Commissioner. As many as 43 women labourers work with the NRCG on contract basis,and most of them have been with the centre for over a decade now.
Though the labourers have reportedly conceded that they ate a few grapes,they claim that such incidents are not a uncommon on the institute field. Not only labourers and other staff,but NRCG officials also do it,they alleged. Moreover,we had obtained the permission of the guard at the site before lifting a bunch, said Kamte.
Many a time,officials visiting the fields order us to pack good quality grapes for them to take home. They take kilos of grapes,but nobody utters a word, said another woman,adding that the officials were irked by the labour union,which has been fighting for minimum wages.
Even if we suppose that the labourers had erred,they should have been given an opportunity to present their side of the story. This did not happen. Forget being allowed to meet officials,the four are not being let inside the premises, said Nitin Pawar of Anga Mehanti Kashtakari Sangharsh Samiti,which organised a protest in front of district collectors office on Saturday.
Adsule said the facts regarding the issue have been communicated to the Regional Labour Commissioner and the district collector and he didnt wish to speak on the issue further.