The Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation authorities had been shockingly apathetic to the inhuman treatment to over 400 waste workers employed by its contractor BVG Kshitij. In frustration, the Kagad Kach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat (KKPKP) called for a public “verification drive” to ascertain the exact wages paid to workers by the company. Several workers battled fears of intimidation by company authorities to come forward to register their complaints.
Messrs BVG Kshitij is contracted by the PCMC for carrying out waste collection in wards B and C since January 2011. Over the past 4 months, KKPKP has repeatedly brought to the notice of the PCMC authorities that workers were being paid wages of between Rs 50 and 100 per day instead of Rs 254 stipulated under the Minimum Wages Act. The matter was also brought to the notice of the Labour Department, Pune, which corroborated the complaints in its Inspection carried out on 22nd February 2013. In the presence of the Labour Inspector, PCMC authorities committed to withholding payment to BVG Kshitij till they verified the actual wages paid out to the workers. Workers are frustrated that they have not been paid the wages due to them and neither have they been given attendance cards. This amounts to violation of the provisions of the Contract Labour Act by BVG Kshitij.
KKPKP representative, Harshad Barde, has systematically and painstakingly collated information under the Right to Information Act which clearly establishes that BVG Kshitij has been manipulating statutory attendance records. The company has been manipulating attendance records either in connivance with or right under the noses of PCMC authorities. The attendance records kept under the PCMC-BVG contract for imposing penalties on BVG show very low absenteeism of helpers on vehicles. But the records maintained for payment of Minimum Wages to workers under the Minimum Wages Act show much lower worker attendance. The discrepancy between the two attendance records is around four thousand man days of work per month for around 14 months. All this has been communicated to the Municipal Commissioner, Shri.Shrikar Pardeshi. The actual payment to workers has been done on the basis of falsified attendance records showing that each of them has worked for around 10-12 days per month while they have actually worked for a full month to make the wages correspond.
“We want to follow the correct route to ensure that our grievances are redressed. We approached the Municipal Commissioner who directed us to the Labour Welfare Officer Shri. Indalkar and the Labour Commissioner Shri. Hendre. We approached both of them and are going to continue to barrage them with our demands till they are met. We are only seeking what is rightfully ours” says Kashi bai Torad. “But what am I to do if they pay me Rs. 400 for the entire month of February when I have worked 23 full days for 8 long back breaking hours, each day! How am I to feed my family on Rs. 17 per day? My record for the month of February as per BVG shows one day of work”.
Shobha Fasle was shunted from work site to work site and has not been paid at all. Moreover when she went to draw the balance of Rs.63 using her BVG Kshitij company ATM card, she had to pay Rs.10 to a sidekick for every withdrawal. As if that were not enough she had to stand by and watch frustratedly as Rs.10 vanished as bank transaction costs for each withdrawal”. So much for the much touted benefits of electronic transfers which seem to benefit the banks at the cost of the workers!
Lakshmi Narayanan, General Secretary of KKPKP adds, “We continue to keep faith in our government and public servants. We have chosen to pursue the matter with the Municipal and Labour Department to ensure justice to workers. As solid waste management is a critical and essential service, we have exercised restraint to ensure that workers provide uninterrupted services and not cause a health and hygiene problem for the citizens of PCMC.
In a meeting convened today by Shri. Phutane, Labour Inspector, the PCMC agreed that prima facie there were discrepancies in the attendance records maintained and the actual payments made. The representative of BVG Kshitij asked for 1 ½ months time to verify the records for the month of February. Shri. Phutane concurred with KKPKP that records that are used as a basis of payment for work each month cannot take 1 ½ months to verify. The Labour department has called for verified records on April 3rd 2013.