'Living in Penury': UP Jal Nigam Employees Not Paid Salary, Pension For Past Five Months
Lucknow: While Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath continues to claim to bring investment worth thousands of crores to the state, the ground reality is that around 21,117 employees and pensioners of the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam are facing an acute financial crisis as they have not been getting salaries for the past five months. It was in August 2022, when the employees had last drawn their salaries.
Not only have they been struggling to feed their families in the absence of money, but also it is getting difficult for employees to pay the school fee of their children. Many of them have been forced to sell their hard-earned gold jewellery to repay loans and run the household.
Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam was divided into two parts — Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam (Urban) and Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam (Rural) in September 2021. Around 6,861 employees of UPJN have not been paid salaries for the past five months while 14,256 retired employees have not received pensions since September due to a “lack of funds” in the department. Apart from this, there are about 500 employees who retired but the pension has not been fixed yet.
Ajay Pal Singh, convenor of UP Jal Nigam Karmchari Mahasangh while speaking with NewsClick said, "After a long struggle and continued protest, both pensioners and employees of urban areas only paid one month's pay for July. Still, five months of salary and pension are pending including the ongoing month of January. Many employees are selling gold jewellery to repay loans and pay school fees for children. Employees and pensioners in rural areas have not been paid since November.”
Singh further added Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister claimed his government has achieved a milestone of providing tap water to 25% people of the state under the Jal Jivan Mission. "This is a scheme of Rs 1.36 lakh crore and when 25% of work has been done as per the government claims then why not they are paying us our percentage on the basis of our work?" he asked.
NewsClick has continuously covered the UP Jal Nigam issue. A similar situation erupted in June 2021 where nearly 9,018 employees associated with UPJN in the state have not been paid salaries for the past four months. While 13,585 retired employees have not received their pension for the same period.
Jal Nigam employees staged a sit-in protest over non-payment of salary and pension, after which Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath instructed officials that they are paid three months' salary.
"After continuous agitation in the past, it was agreed to pay the salary on time. At that time, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath himself had issued instructions to pay the salary. But the situation has not changed a bit. Pending salary for five-six months is common in our department. I was suffering from a chronic disease and I did not have money for the treatment. I had to take a loan from the bank for my treatment," Ram Singh, a retired Jal Nigam employee who is solely dependent on a pension, told NewsClick.
A retired employee Sonpati Pandey said that pension was their only source of income and they were in dire need of money at this crucial juncture. Most of the retired employees are facing health problems and they are not able to purchase medicines.
Pandey who retired in September last year is facing a similar situation. She was not paid her salary for the last three months. A sword of uncertainty hangs over the future Pandey as despite five months after retirement, nothing has been decided about her pension and other benefits and perks post-retirement.
"We have a daughter to get married. One of my sons is sick and needs money for his treatment. From where will I manage if I don't get paid my pending salary and pension? The government should understand we are not begging but asking for our dues to be cleared," Pandey told NewsClick.
Ram Singh and Sonpati Pandey are not alone. There are thousands of employees and pensioners who have been waiting for their pending dues so that they can run their households.
They complained that Jal Nigam officials always give the excuse of lack of the requisite amount of money for making the payment of the pension.
Shrikant Awasthi retired from Jal Nigam in July 2017 but he has not been paid the gratuity and other post-retirement funds. His dream is to do a small business after getting funds; the dream hasn't come true yet.
"Leave salary and pension, I am forced to borrow money from my relatives to make ends meet. Jal Nigam employees have been forced to live in penury. We don't have any hope now," an emotional Awasthi told NewsClick.
HOW UP JAL NIGAM WORKS
According to the Water Supply and Sewerage Act, of 1975, UPJN was constituted as a corporation. Before 1975, it was known as a local self-government engineering department that used to look after the water supply and sewage in both rural and urban areas apart from the cantonment.
Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam employees get a centage (a commission) for their work. If they have worked worth Rs 100, 12.5% would be the centage. The government owes a centage of around Rs 1,495 crore. "If the government releases this amount, pension, salary, arrears of 6th pay commission, gratuity, retiral benefits could be paid,” the union leaders claimed.
“Over the years, the government has reduced the centage from 12.5% to 5%. This is the reason Jal Nigam is in pathetic condition but the government hardly thinks about its employees,” claimed the union.
Singh claimed that they had written to the CM but all went in vain. "For how long anyone can work without a salary? If the situation remains the same, we will organise massive protests in the state," he added.
Uttar Pradesh urban development and energy minister AK Sharma could not be reached for a comment despite multiple attempts.
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