Lucknow: Scores of employees working in Lal Imli Mill – an about 145-year old woolen cloth manufacturing mill – in Kanpur held a protest demonstration to press for the release of salaries which, they said, had been pending for the last three years.
The employees, who assembled in front of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA Surendra Maithani's residence in Pandu Nagar under the banner of the Lal Imli Karamchari Sangh, said that they were on the verge of starvation as they did not have any resources with which to feed their families.
They alleged that despite several representations made to the government and local MLAs and Kanpur's MP, their demands were not addressed. Employees staged dharnas and held protests on a number of occasions but no one bothered, they said. Their families had been facing starvation due to non-payment of their wages since long.
The union expressed its anguish, saying that due to non-payment of salaries, nearly 400 families have reached the verge of starvation amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. They also claimed that at least eight employees of Lal Imli Mill have died due to lack of treatment during the pandemic period.
Ajay Singh, president of Lal Imli Karamchari Sangh, said: "The ruling party representative from Kanpur had made big promises but despite that we have been left without salaries for the last 36 months and are on the verge of starvation. Even our women and children have been forced to work as daily wagers, ferrying vegetables door-to-door and some are compelled to drive e- rickshaws," Singh told Newsclick, adding that they are now fed up with "fake assurances".
Singh said that about 400 workers from the mill have not been paid their salaries for the last three years and more than 50 workers have died in the last few years during financial crises but neither has the Yogi Adityanath government, nor their local representative whom they elected with a thumping majority, paid heed to their troubles.
The agitating workers handed over a memorandum to the BJP MLA and warned him that if their pending salaries were not released in a matter of weeks, they will intensify their stir and begin a hunger strike in Kanpur and the state capital of Lucknow.
When asked the reason behind the delay in pending salaries, Singh claimed, "The Centre has not made budgetary allocations for the salaries of the mill workers for many years now as they do not care about our lives."
The BJP MP from Kanpur, Satyadev Pachauri, had raised the issue in the Lok Sabha in February this year and said that the condition of the Lal Imli employees had become "pathetic".
The MP told the Lower House that Lal Imli was owned by British India Corporation Limited (BIC) and is a public sector undertaking (PSU) under the ministry of textiles; it was established in the British era. The mill used to provide livelihoods to hundreds of workers but has been closed since 2013. "After its closure, the workers working have been pushed into abject poverty, with no money to buy food or medicine.” he said, adding that since the mill was not closed officially, the future of workers continues to hang in the balance.
"The condition of Lal Imli workers can be gauged from the fact that the Supreme Court had to intervene to provide interim assistance to these workers. The ministry of textiles should take a quick and rational decision regarding the official closure of this non-functioning textile mill and their payment and other perks be released immediately so that they can live life well," the leader said.
Taking a jibe at Pachauri and accusing the ruling government for repeatedly ignoring the plight of workers, Singh said, "He raised the issue six months ago and in between assembly elections took place in many states. The government and its representatives had the money to fly to each place and hold back-to-back rallies, but they were not bothered about workers. The priority of the government is clear and we should learn from it,” he told Newsclick.