The students of National Law University in Delhi are up in arms against the removal of 55 housekeeping staff owing to a recent decision of the administration to invite a new firm for services at its campus located in West Delhi. The students allege that the staff members, who have been providing their service for the past 12 years, were laid off without any prior notice or any other compensation.
They further emphasise that the new vendor did not take stock of the manpower requirements of the prestigious institution and showed the way out to the employees who were sole breadwinners in their families. The employees who have been laid off also include a visually impaired person earning for her family of four.
A statement by the students of the university said that the new contract with the Rajendra Management Group is in violation of a circular issued by the university itself. The statement read that the university and the new agency did “no prior assessment of manpower requirement complying Delhi Govt. Notification F-4/20/08/AR/921-1080/C dated 16.01.2009 done by NLUD administration”.
It added, “Assuming that the university requires a minimum of 55 safai karamcharis i.e. the number of house keeping workers employed until now, no basis has been provided that why the technical bid submitted by RMG dated 24.9. 2019 for deploying 30 karamcharis would be qualified. It is important to note that RMG bid should be outrightly disqualified as it proposes more than 20 percent reduction in minimum number of safai karamcharis required...Taking into account the violations, the contract between NLUD and RMG for Safai Karamcharis stands invalid.”
Interestingly, the budding lawyers also highlight the violation of labour laws. As per current provisions, the minimum wage for an unskilled worker has been fixed at Rs 14,842 per month. However, the workers at the university get a salary much lower than this amount.
A student said that about 76% of the workforce consists of sole breadwinners of their families. Similarly, more than 60% workers live in rented accommodations. The statement added, “The majority of the removed workforce has been working in this university for as long as 12 years i.e. the inception of this university. It is pertinent to note that they have devoted a substantial portion of their lifetime in building and maintaining this institution. By virtue of their hard work and dedication, NLUD ranked 3rd in MHRD’s Cleanliness Award given to higher educational institutions in the country.”
Talking to NewsClick, the visually impaired worker Ram Kumari said that the workers were not intimated about suspension of services by the administration. She said, “Our contract ended on December 30. When we reached the university on December 28, we found that our attendance register was missing from the gate. When I enquired about it, we were told that our services were no longer required by the institution. Meanwhile, a few students came and told us that they will talk to the vice chancellor about the situation. When they returned, they told us that we can continue till 30th. After that, the new vendor came with his own staff.”
She added, “I had joined the institution in 2008. I had joined the university at a mere salary of Rs 2,800 and I last withdrew a salary of Rs 12,000. It was our hard work that brought this university the medal of the third best institution in terms of cleanliness. I do not have a functional retina in my eyes. They are too weak to the extent that I can not see in night. I preferred to work in the university because it has ample light. I will not find these conditions elsewhere, in private homes. I have two daughters and an ailing husband. I was the sole breadwinner for them. I do not know how we will survive in these conditions!”
NewsClick tried reaching the administration of the university but has not received a response so far.