Lucknow:After months of struggle against the Uttar Pradesh government’s inaction for non-payment of salary over the past 12 months, women employees of 181 helpline number in the state have something to cheer about. The state government has finally agreed to release pending salaries.
On the evening of July 23, the Uttar Pradesh government issued a notification saying that pending salaries of all women employees of 181 women’s helpline will be released within a week.
After verification, the entire payment will be given to GVK- EMRI, the company that operates the helpline services by the department in a week.
In another order, the UP cabinet has taken a decision to integrate the 181 women’s helpline with the 112 police helpline. The decision comes in the light of the 351 women employees of the 181 helpline giving a call for an indefinite hunger strike from July 20 I protest against not being paid wages for 12 months.
The decision was taken after a meeting between Chief Minister Adityanath and representatives of the three women employees at his office on July 17.
The decision is not only a victory for the protesting employees who worked with utmost dedication but also a big relief to the several women employees who were facing financial distress due to non-payment of salaries for the past one year.
"On July 17, we met Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and briefed him. The CM assured us that our pending salaries of 12 months would be released by the end of July, but we were not given any written assurance. We also approached S Radha Chauhan, additional chief secretary, Women and Child Development, who informed us that file of 181 women helpline will be tabled in the cabinet meeting on Tuesday and funds of Rs 17 crore will be allocated to distribute our pending salary," Ruchi Pratap, a team leader of the 181 women helpline told NewsClick.
She, however, added that she saw a bleak future as there was not much hope that government would continue the service.
Blaming the state government for their plight, another helpline employee, Neetu Singh, said that the state women and child development department had a contract with GVK-EMRI, the Hyderabadbased company, which also operates 108 and 102 ambulance helplines along with 181 helpline in the state.
“Ideally, we should have been paid by GVK, but because the department as primary employer has not given the budget to GVK since February 2019, they have not been able to pay their employees,” said Neetu Singh, adding that the call centre and rescue services have become almost defunct over the past few months due to government negligence.
Puneet Mishra, deputy chief probation officer in the child and women’s welfare department, said the state cabinet on Thursday gave its approval and salaries will be paid in two-three days.
"A press release has been issued in this regard on Thursday and the issue is being discussed with director of the department concerned. They will be paid in two days," Mishra told NewsClick.
However, Mishra refused to comment when asked whether the 181 women’s helpline will be integrated with the 112 police helpline.
'FUTURE LOOKS BLEAK'
While all the 351 women employees of the 181 helpline are yet to receive 12 months’ salary from the state government, what is worrying them is a bleak future.
“The release of pending salary feels good, but the future looks bleak.The UP government’s 181 women helpline service is failing to achieve the desired results as the staff’s salaries have not been paid since July, while its vehicles lie defunct due to funds crunch," Khushboo Jahan, a rescue van facilitator said.
Another employee, Smita, said she plans to quit the profession and would search for another job where the future is secure.
“GVK-EMRI had paid salaries to all categories of employees until June 2019. It said due to grave financial constraints being faced because of the non-release of requisite grant-in-aid by the UP income and expenditure department, it was facing a financial crunch," said Khushboo.
Meanwhile, a small group of 181 women’s helpline employees held a protest on Thursday against pending salaries and reinstatement to their former jobs.
"We called off our protest after Puneet Mishra, deputy chief probation officer in the women’s welfare department, intervened and assured us that we will be paid this week. But, he did not say a word over the discontinuation letter that was served to us," said Khushboo, adding that it was fine that 118 would be merged with the 101 police helpline, but no assurance was given about jobs.
It may be noted that an employee with the UP government’s 181 women’s helpline allegedly died of suicide on July 4 evening. The woman jumped before a train in the Shyamnagar railway crossing area in Kanpur allegedly due to financial distress. She was one of the many workers who have not received their salaries since the past one year.
The deceased was from the Shyamnagar area of Kanpur and had been staying with her husband and their five-year-old daughter in a rented room. She was employed as a rescue van facilitator in Unnao.
Commenting over the victory of the struggling women workers, Subhashini Ali, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader and former Kanpur MP, who has been raising the issue frequently, said: "This is the result of struggling women of 118 women’s helpline for months and Dinkar Kapoor, president of Uttar Pradesh Worker Front, who supported their movement. The way Uttar Pradesh government is going through in terms of law and order, this is a huge victory, but justice has been not served," Ali told NewsClick adding that it was a “crime that they were not paid despite working the whole year with dedication.”
Opposing the Adityanath government’s move to merge of 118 with 102 police helpline, the CPI(M) leader said: "The 181 women helpline has a different significance, as it only deals with immediate and 24-hour emergency response to women affected by violence of any form and rescue (where necessary). These affected women either hesitate to dial police number or do not want to share their problem with cops. After merging 181 women helpline with 102 police helpline, the problem of female harassment will remain same."