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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Seeking justice for Hathras victim: Over 5,000 safai karamcharis on strike in Agra

According to corporation officials, the Valmiki community gave a call for a strike on September 30, after which 5,000 of its members, employed as sweepers, garbage collectors and garbage van drivers refused to report to work across the city.

Written by Divya A | New Delhi | Updated: October 5, 2020 12:56:49 pm
Police deployed in the village of the Dalit woman in Hathras

A section of safai karamcharis of the Municipal Corporation — from the Valmiki community — have been on strike in Agra since September 30 to demand justice for the Hathras rape-murder victim.

According to corporation officials, the Valmiki community gave a call for a strike on September 30, after which 5,000 of its members, employed as sweepers, garbage collectors and garbage van drivers refused to report to work across the city.

The strike took a confrontational turn on Saturday, with members of the Valmiki community damaging eight of the corporation’s garbage collection vehicles and allegedly pelting stones at policemen near the Kothi Meena Bazar area, where the corporation office is located. Some protesters were injured as police resorted to lathicharge.

After the incident, five workers were sacked. Municipal Commissioner Tikaram Funde said only a section of the workforce was creating nuisance. “Some outsourced safai karamcharis have been sacked while others have been identified and would be dealt with firmly,” he said.

Nearly all sanitation workers employed by the corporation are from the Valmiki community.

One of the safai karamcharis, who did not want to be identified, said, “Our community has been insulted. The police misbehaved with the family of the victim and are misbehaving with us… They didn’t allow the family to perform the last rites as per Hindu rituals. We demand immediate hanging for the accused.”

However, there were signs of thaw on Sunday evening. Vinod Allahabadi, regional head of the Uttar Pradesh Sthaniya Nikaya Sangh, a workers’ union, said, “We tried to mediate between the senior MC officials and safai karamcharis and explained to them that due process of law takes time in such cases… they should continue to do their essential job. In fact, some of the sweeping staff wanted to report to work through the strike but were obstructed by leaders of their community.” He said officials have assured that they will reconsider the sacking of the five sweepers.

There was a similar strike in the neighbouring town of Mathura.

Shyam Sundar Karunesh, a prominent Valmiki leader from the region, called a meeting of the community on Sunday evening to assess the situation. “We have decided to call off the strike but the struggle will continue till we get justice. The CBI enquiry or Rs 25 lakh compensation announced by the Yogi Adityanath government doesn’t mean anything to us. We ask for a judicial inquiry into the incident. We want justice and dignity for our people.”

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