Sanitation workers at the controversial Jawaharlal Nehru University have been cleaning 18 hostels and messes every day, amidst the Coronavirus outbreak, without a single penny from the past 3 months, reports News18. Besides denying their monthly wage, the JNU administration has not provided the sanitation workers with basic protective gear such as gloves and masks.
Until 2016, the JNU administration was in charge of providing salaries and employment benefits to the sanitation workers. Following the elevation of Mamidala Jagdesh Kumar as the Vice-Chancellor of the university, the rules were changed. The administration paid directly to the private contractors who were entrusted to disburse the salary of ₹12,000 to the workers.
Reportedly, a student organisation by the name of The Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students Organisation (BASO) has raised funds to distribute hand sanitisers, face masks, and gloves among the sanitation workers.
Testimony of the JNU sanitation workers
According to the report, 43-year-old Kamlesh, a sanitation worker at JNU, has dried up her meagre savings in the absence of monthly wages. She has two daughters and a son to look after. In the absence of protective masks, Kamlesh is forced to use her dupatta to cover her nose and mouth.
A sanitation worker Asha who has remained unpaid for over two months alleged that the private contractors change after a period while the workers remain the same. While the JNU administration refuses to identify them as “permanent employees”, the private contractors refuse to provide transparency. In October last year, the workers went on a strike demanding regular pay and review of the employment terms and conditions.
Urmila Chauhan who served as the former President of the Union by JNU’s sanitation workers alleged that she was fired by her private contractor in October 2018 with the approval of the JNU administration for demanding the rights of the workers. She said, “It is a blame game between JNU administration and private contractors like Sudharshan and Rakshak who are on its payroll.”