Senior officials from the office of the Additional Labour Commissioner, Pune, may want to look up the meaning of the proverb ‘physician, heal thyself’. While they have the responsibility of ensuring that all workplaces follow mandatory labour laws, they seem to be violating a basic law themselves: their office has no proper toilet for women.
On Tuesday, woman employees in the office went on a flash strike to draw attention to the issue, and also handed over a memorandum to the Additional Labour Commissioner, Anil Lakaswar.
Located on the Old Mumbai-Pune Highway, the Additional Labour Commissioner’s office is the district-level body for all issues pertaining to the labour sector in Pune. Every day, hundreds of people visit the office, which also carries out registrations for the Domestic Workers’ Welfare Board. Despite the large number of visitors, the office lacks basic infrastructure, including a proper bathroom for women.
Woman employees said the bathroom in the building was neither hygienic nor safe. The door of the bathroom didn’t have a latch and there were holes in the wall. “During monsoon, the roof leaks and it is practically unusable,” said a woman employee.
The office has 22 woman employees; most of them said they avoided using the facility and instead, used the washrooms of a mall located nearby. The flash strike was meant to highlight this “violation of fundamental right”, said the woman employees.
They pointed out that as per the existing laws, an establishment is only allowed to operate if it has a woman’s toilet. In fact, while conducting inspections, officials of the labour department can even impose a fine if an establishment is found to be operating without a women’s toilet.
Activist Kiran Moghe, who works with labourers and domestic workers, said she had raised the matter repeatedly, but it was yet to be resolved. “Woman visitors to the office have complained about the lack of a clean bathroom and we have also complained repeatedly, but nothing has changed,” she said.
When queried on the issue, State Labour Minister Sambhaji Patil Nilangekar promised to look into it.