Apart from sending half of his monthly income home to his mother and three siblings in Katihar, Bihar, 19-year-old Anzar Alam saves a tiny sum every month for emergencies. But now that his village has been hit by a flood, he feels helpless. “I haven’t been paid in the last two months, so I have spent my savings on rent and food…I need money urgently so my family in Katihar can survive,” said Alam, one of the 1,600 labourers with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) protesting at Jantar Mantar since August 17.
Along with the labourers, contractors too have taken to the streets demanding “pending payments of nine months from DMRC and FEMC Pratibha,” which, according to labour contractor Ashish Dwivedi, amounts to “Rs 25 crore”. “We are paid by FEMC Pratibha but nine months ago when we stopped work, DMRC intervened and assured us that they will pay us… since then, partial payments have been made over a month or two,” said Dwivedi, who has 300 labourers under him.
When The Indian Express approached the DMRC, Anuj Dayal, Executive Director, Corporate Communications, said, “A section of workers hired by one of DMRC’s contractors, M/s FEMC Pratibha have been agitating over alleged non-payment of dues for the last few days. DMRC would like to clarify that these workers have not been directly recruited or hired by Delhi Metro.”
DMRC also does not pay the salaries directly to these workers. The contractor has been directed to clear all dues and DMRC is also closely monitoring the situation.A Metro spokesperson added, “If labourer makes any complaint to DMRC regarding non-payment of wages, DMRC takes appropriate steps. In this case, no individual labourer has made complaints. This is the matter of dues between sub-contractor and the main contractor.”
Even as the rain brought the city to a standstill on Saturday, hundreds continued to sit on a dharna at Jantar Mantar, along with 25 labour contractors. “I have paid salaries of the 250 labourers under me for seven months by taking loans…I am in debt now, no longer capable of paying them, which is why we are protesting,” said contractor Babloo Tripathi.
The labourers and contractors also revealed that work on Delhi Metro phase III is on hold due to the protest. “At the moment, no work is happening at the nine Metro stations of phase III, which is already delayed by many months…if they don’t meet our demand, we will also put functioning metro service on hold, and lie down on the tracks in protest,” said Tripathi.
DMRC, on the other hand, maintained that “there is no delay. We are doing our structural and finishing work. These supply contractors were only doing house keeping work, helping the mechanical and electrical department in their work, the job of office attendants and other miscellaneous work. This is not affecting our schedule as these are ancillary activities”.Meanwhile, labourers such as Rajesh Yadav who hails from Bhadohi near Allahabad, continue to “ignore desperate phone calls from home as there is no money to send.”