Protests by sanitation workers in Noida demanding permanent employment gained momentum with Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad joining them on Saturday. Their agitation outside the Noida Authority office, which has been on for a month, has grown after a colleague, Anil Kumar (35), committed suicide two days ago after he lost his job.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Azad claimed: “It is our constitutional right to protest. Notices were sent by authorities to sanitation workers that they will lose their jobs if they continue to protest. Anil came under mental distress by this threat and took his own life. Now what about his family, his six children? We demand an investigation in the case, just like the one in the case of Sushant (Singh Rajput). His family should receive compensation and be given government jobs so they can sustain themselves.”
Anil’s wife Sushma Kumari (30) said: “I had gone to my village in Meerut along with the children for a few days. Hours before he hanged himself, Anil called me. First he asked about the children… then he told me he had lost his job. I knew he was worried about his work but I never imagined he would do something like this… I have six children, the eldest is 11.”
Praveen Mishra, ACEO, Noida Authority, said Anil was working for a company called MSW with which they had a contract. The firm did not respond to calls and messages seeking a comment.
“The company is taking steps to compensate the family and employ two family members… We have had discussions with the workers previously and are doing whatever we can from our side. One of their demands was a salary increase. We were ready to increase pay but now it seems there has been a miscommunication…,” said Mishra.
Foremost among the sanitation workers’ concerns is the income disparity and alleged mistreatment by contractors. Vinod Valmiki (52) said, “I have been working as a sanitation worker for 30 years now. But I am among those who get paid Rs 11,700. If we voice our concerns, our contractor threatens to fire us. There is no formal contract. This is why we wish to be recognised as government employees.”
Commenting on the wage disparity, Azad said, “Sanitation workers are divided into four categories – government employees who earn Rs 40,000; a second layer that receives Rs 17,000; the third receives 11,700; and the fourth category that receives Rs 7,000. The work is the same but the salaries are not. Further, corrupt contractors do not even pay the entire amount. This is why workers are unable to run their homes and educate their children.”
On Friday, several protesters, including Anil’s brother-in-law Sandeep Kumar, were allegedly beaten up by police. R K Singh, SHO of Sector 20 police station, said, “Officers are stationed at the spot. Yesterday, the protesters were throwing garbage on the streets and creating a ruckus. Hence, officers had to take control of the situation. Six were arrested.”
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