Jagdish Prajapati, a pump operator at Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam’s (UPJN) Jhansi division, has not been paid for the five months. With an ailing mother, two sons who lost money in a joint business and a wife who cannot continue her tuition classes due to the pandemic, Prajapati is in a precarious financial situation.
Prajapati is among the thousands of water corporation employees struggling to make ends meet because of irregular salary payment. Though they have struck work periodically, including from 1 pm to 3 pm daily this month outside the UPJN headquarters in Lucknow, the employees still haven’t been paid salaries.
Jal Nigam employees have also started sit-in protests in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency Varanasi, chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s hometown Gorakhpur, Jhansi, Bulandshahr and Banda.
As per records till March 31, more than 8,645 employees of UPJN have not been paid salaries for the past five months while 13,676 retired employees have not received pension since April due to “lack of funds’ in the department.
The wary employees no longer expect government help. “We have become helpless and hopeless in the last five months. Many employees who died due to Coronavirus had neither received their salaries nor compensation. We only want a solution, nothing else,” DP Mishra, coordinator, Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam Sangharsh Samiti, told Newsclick.
“No salary and pension have been disbursed since April. The Jal Nigam and the state government must understand that surviving without pay is very difficult,” Mishra added.
The staff alleged that around 150 UPJN employees died due to Covid during the second wave but they neither received compensation nor their provident fund amount.
Narrating the plight of the pensioners, Ram Sanehi Yadav, president of Jal Nigam Jal Sansthan Mazdoor Union, said, “For the last 17-18 months, a huge chunk of employees from April 12, 2011, batch have not received pension and other government perks since the department is not releasing funds. Similarly, old pensioners have not been paid pension for the past five months,” Yadav told Newsclick, adding that the pensioners are in a vulnerable situation since most of them are above 62 and some 75.
“They are all dependent on medicines but cannot buy them due to financial constraints. Several families are on the brink of starvation,” Yadav added.
According to the Union, Adityanath, who had met Jal Nigam unions five times, had instructed every department to release funds due to Panchayati Raj, Jal Sansthan and other departments. However, Rs 1,654 crore is due to several departments of Jal Nigam.
UPJN FIGHTING FOR EXISTENCE, CORPORATION IN FINANCIAL TROUBLE
Mishra said that financial loss due to “mismanagement” by the government is a key factor in the delay in payment of salary and pension. “Jal Nigam employees also get centage (a commission) for their work. Suppose if we do work worth Rs 100, 12.5 per cent would be the centage. The government owes a centage of around Rs 1,600 crore. If the government releases this amount, both pension and salary could be paid,” he claimed.
According to the Water Supply and Sewerage Act, 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.
Recently, “all projects of Jal Jeevan Mission in rural areas were given to the State Water and Sanitation Mission (SWSM)”, a registered society under the aegis of the Department/Board/Nigam/Authority/Agency implementing rural water supply programme, “instead of UPJN”.
“SWSM neither had the manpower nor experience in that kind of work. The rest of the projects were given to Namami Gange, under the rural water supply programme. Due to government negligence and the projects being allotted project to other departments, the future of Jal Nigam is uncertain,” Mishra said.