Fifty employees of the Delhi Waqf Board began an indefinite strike outside the board’s office in Darya Ganj Thursday over non-payment of salaries, while another 100 employees are on a pen down strike.
Mona (34), who was among the protesters, hasn’t received her salary of Rs 28,000 for nine months. A single mother of two children, she works in the dak and dispatch section. “I took up the job after my husband died last year. I have had to borrow money to pay the children’s fees. I am running out of savings… I don’t know how to run the house like this…,” she said.
Even though 150 employees of the Board have not received salaries, only 50 are on strike in order to maintain social distance. While around 45 permanent employees have not received salaries for five months, the remaining who are on contract have not been paid since February. The salaries range from Rs 18,000-Rs 28,000 for temporary employees.
Vikram Khajania (42), a sanitation worker with the board, said he has already borrowed money from a number of people to run his family of six: “People do not want to lend me money anymore since I am unable to pay them back. I cannot pay for children’s education and ration is becoming difficult to arrange. On top of that, I have to pay Rs 40-50 to travel to work every day from my home in Madanpur Khadar JJ colony.” He earns around Rs 14,800 a month.
The employees had written to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Central District, Darya Ganj, stating that they will go on an indefinite dharna on October 28 if their demands were not met. After discussions with board members, the employees had postponed their strike till November 5.
Himal Akhtar, member of the Delhi Waqf Board, said the reason for this is because the seat of the chairman has been vacant since February 11, the day the Sixth Delhi Assembly got dissolved. Sources said the election of a new chairperson has been pushed to November due to technical reasons as well as the Covid situation and clarified that there are enough funds.
Akhtar said, “Three authorised signatories are required to process the salary payment – the chairman, the CEO, and a member of the board.” CEO Tanveer Ahmed did not respond to calls or texts seeking a comment.
The seven board members on October 21 also wrote to the CEO asking him to call a meeting. The letter emphasised that the board’s accounts cannot function as one authorised signatory is missing.
On October 22, Okhla MLA and Waqf Board member Amanatullah Khan also wrote a similar letter to the CEO requesting him to call an urgent meeting. The CEO has not responded to the requests.
Since payments cannot be processed, around 300 elderly women who were dependent on the board for pension have been left in the lurch too. Akhtar said, “As per Section 17 (2) of the Waqf Act, a member can be appointed as Chairman from among the board members and complete the formalities.” Only the CEO has the power to do this, he said.
Last month, the Delhi government had told the Delhi High Court that it will defer the election meeting scheduled to be held for the post of chairperson to November 19 after a petition challenging the process was filed before the court. The election was scheduled to be held on October 19 evening.
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