Shakuntala (42) had been working as a safai karamchari under NGO Sulabh International at Ambedkar University Delhi (AUD) since 2014. The only earning member in her family, she would get a wage of Rs 13,350 per month to manage expenses for a family of three. On May 31, as she was heading home after work, she claims she was told by the university administration to stop coming to work from the next day.
A total of 53 Sulabh International contractual sanitation workers, including Shakuntala, have since been protesting on campus against the alleged dismissal without notice.
After its tender with Sulabh expired, workers say AUD floated a tender which has now gone to a private company called Bhagwati International, as a result of which all existing staff — some of whom have been working in the university for as long as eight years — have been removed. Last year, they had protested saying they will not indulge in manual scavenging.
In May this year, a similar situation was witnessed in Delhi University when around 150 safai karamcharis working with Sulabh were terminated from employment after its contract with the university expired.
Several of those who lost jobs had earlier filed a case against Sulabh in a labour court.
“I stay in a rented accommodation near Majnu ka Tila. My daughter is mentally challenged. My husband abandoned me when I was pregnant with my son. I am the only earning member of my family. Somehow I’ve managed to sustain us. But when I was told I had lost my job on May 31, I just broke down,” said Shakuntala.
Supported by several student groups on campus, the workers have been pressing for re-employment under the new company.
On Monday, workers were promised they would be hired, but till Tuesday night, they were still on protest at the Kashmere Gate campus.
“After much protest, they told us they will hire 25 of us. Yesterday, they said they will hire all of us under the new company, and asked us to come for registration. We have been sitting since 6 am, but nothing has happened. Previously, when the security company at AUD had changed, they had continued with the old security guards, and just changed their uniforms. Why can’t they do the same with us?,” said Anita, one of the workers who was laid off.
Responding to the issue, the AUD PRO said they are looking into the matter.
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