Lucknow: Akash Srivastava has been associated with the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam (UPJN) since the past 20 years. In the last two decades, this clerk has seen the corporation drifting toward the worst. But the past four months, with their salaries pending, have been a nightmare for him and thousands of his colleagues working in the corporation.
"It’s become so difficult to survive now. For the past four months I have been borrowing money from friends’ and relatives to run my house, but how long can I go on like this"? said a choking Mishra.
Ram Sanehi Yadav, another UP Jal Nigam employee, said despite the Chief Minister's order before Holi (March 29), the department did not pay them salaries. “How can one survive without money? And salary is our main source of livelihood,” said Yadav, who has four children.
Avinash and Amarnath are also among employees who have been struggling to sustain their families and most of them have run out of whatever little savings they had.
Nearly 9,018 employees associated with UPJLN in the state have not been paid salaries for the past four months. While 13,585 retired employees have not received their pension since February due to lack of "funds" in the department.
In March, Jal Nigam employees staged a sit-in protest over non-payment of salary and pension, after which Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had instructed officials that they be paid three months' salary before Holi. But, despite his assurance, payment of salaries and pension of February, March, April and May is still pending.
UPJN Managing Director Anil Kumar said salaries were stuck since the department had not yet received funds from the state government. He expressed hope that the dues would be cleared soon. Kumar said Rs 63 crore is spent on salaries every month but due to the “non-function” of the department amid pandemic, the earnings of Jal Nigam were zero. Also, dues of Rs 1,846 crore from various departments have also not been received yet. Due to COVID-19 raging for one and a half months, no meeting has been held regarding payment of dues with government officials as well.
"The basic objective of creating this corporation is development and regulation of water supply and sewerage services and matters connected therewith. Therefore, it does not make any sense if the department claims that due to the closure of business amid pandemic, the earnings of the Jal Nigam are zero," Ram Sanehi Yadav, president Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam Sansthan Mazdoor Union, told NewsClick.
According to the union, at least 15 employees of UPJN succumbed to COVID-19 last month in Lucknow alone but they did not receive their General Provident Fund for which a certain amount would be deducted from their salary, neither has a single penny of compensation been given to their families by the government.
Meanwhile, the UP government has decided to accommodate about 5,000 regular UPJN employees aged above 50 years to another department following non-payment of salaries, but the Jal Nigam Sangharsh Samiti has protested this order, fearing that the existence of the Jal Nigam would be under threat after such a decision.
Irked over non-payment of salaries, Jal Nigam employees and retired employees have decided on an indefinite sit-in protest next week onward.
Lalmati, 68, who is solely dependent upon pension has been struggling for survival during the lockdown as she has not been paid for four months. She was forced to knock on the doors of moneylenders or borrow money at high-interest rates to purchase essential items like rice, flour, pulses and medicines.
"We are not the handloom industry or any other profit-making industry selling products so that the government gives us salary on the basis of sales. We are not an income generation group, so this ‘loss and profit’ term is merely an eyewash by the department,” Pratap Sahni, a retired Jal Nigam employee said.