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From JNU sanitation worker to Left candidate, with a little help

N Sai Balaji, the AISA national president, said Jitender Kumar has been a member of the party trade’s union, All India Central Council of Trade Unions, for a long time.

The agency Kumar works for sent a show cause notice on November 26, asking him to explain why his job should not be terminated.

Amidst the hubbub of campaigning for the upcoming MCD polls, one candidate from Lado Sarai, Jitender Kumar(37), has an interesting set of supporters. Kumar, a Dalit sanitation worker at Jawaharlal Nehru University, is contesting on the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation ticket, and its student wing, the All India Students’ Association (AISA), has hopped in on the campaign.

“I have been working on the campus for 17 years, and my father was an employee here for 36 years. Many students, staff and teachers across the political spectrum have been pooling in for the campaign,” said Kumar, whose poll pitch assures sanitation and better pay for contractual workers, apart from regularisation of employment under the MCD.

Though his employers dissuaded him from contesting, he said that if he had to make a change, it could only be through a position of power. “There are several problems in the area where I live – limited water supply, erratic power supply, and total neglect towards workers like us. Main peeche nahi hatunga, jo hoga dekha jayega.”

N Sai Balaji, the AISA national president, said Kumar has been a member of the party trade’s union, All India Central Council of Trade Unions, for a long time. “It is a long association of students and workers, and this is the culmination of the worker movement we see with Jitender contesting,” he said.

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On Thursday afternoon, Madhurima, a PhD scholar at JNU, was busy campaigning for Kumar. “We go around the campus, talk to student voters, locals in various slums, staff and professors living here. I have known comrade (Kumar) since 2018, the year I joined. We divide ourselves into groups and speak with different demographics, go door to door at the staff quarters on the campus. Our funds come from the people, the public; it is not a big show like other parties. We have been collecting money from workers, professors and students,” she said.

The agency Kumar works for sent a show cause notice on November 26, asking him to explain why his job should not be terminated. The party released a statement stating, “CPI-ML will be approaching the State Election Commission against this casteist and blatant intimidation of Jitender Kumar.”

“Also, no law of the land prohibits contractual workers from participating in the election process as voter, election agent or as candidates,” the statement by Ravi Rai, state secretary, CPIML Delhi State Committee, read.

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Balaji said that support was pouring in from all quarters across the campus and areas inhabited by workers. “Students have been campaigning outside JNU, at places workers stay, like Motilal Nehru camp and Vasant Vihar, and there has been tremendous backing from the locals. When we meet them, they say they feel empowered and represented because no mainstream party fields candidates from the working class…sanitation workers alag hi baat hai. This has motivated us to go the extra mile,” Balaji said.

Rai said the way the MCD functions leaves much to be desired. “The corporation is a giant job generator and they have started heavy contractualisation, affecting several workers, especially Dalits. The derelict condition of MCD schools and hospitals only affects one section of the city, thus MCD is the tool to effectively implement local development,” he said.

First published on: 03-12-2022 at 05:40 IST
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