With the Bombay High Court directing the BMC to pay salaries with arrears to its visually impaired employees who did not receive it during the lockdown, the affected employees hope the authorities become more compassionate and empathetic. The employees said they felt cheated and let down by the civic body.
The BMC had issued a circular on May 25 giving visually impaired employees leave under the Municipal Services Act. But under the Act, if these employees have used up sanctioned leaves, they won’t get salary if they do not report to work, it said.
Dilip Zanwar, a 40-year-old BMC control room operator, is among the 250 visually impaired employees working in the civic body. He said the circular deemed people like him expendable. “We had to approach the court after our multiple requests to meet senior officials, letters fell on deaf ears,” he said.
The National Association for the Blind (NAB) on behalf of the nearly 250 employees had filed a PIL in the HC against the circular. The HC on October 28 directed the civic body to compensate the employees and clear the arrears.
Pointing out how difficulties compounded during the pandemic, Atul (name changed), who has been working in the BMC for over two years, said, “Because of Covid-19, our two main senses — touch and smell — to navigate the world were restricted. Fear of infection and need for physical distancing has affected even simple outdoor chores. Earlier, I could touch hand railings at stations, walls and get help from people. The other day, it took me half an hour to just cross the road, no one volunteered to help. I don’t blame people; everyone is scared to help because of the infection.”
Nearly 70 per cent of the visually impaired people are employed at ward-level offices, mostly as telephone operators, control personnel etc.
A clause in a circular issued on April 21 by the general administration department clearly mentioned special consideration be given to employees with disabilities who need not report for duty.
On the May 25 circular, another visually impaired employee said, “Administration should not cheat us like this. Earlier, a concession was promised, then it was reversed. During the pandemic, everyone faced financial difficulties, this is not the way a government body should be treating us.”
The 250 employees could not report to work from March 23 to June 15. Many started reporting to work from June 16 when local trains resumed for essential service employees. “We understand buses were arranged for employees during the lockdown, but we can’t be picked up from homes. This meant we have to arrange for transport to reach the pick-up spots. There were no autorickshaws during the initial lockdown phases, there was curfew in many areas, how was the civic body expecting us to report to work,” asked Zanwar, who travels from Vangani to Dadar.
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