Lucknow: While the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh led by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath talks about employment generation, those working behind the scenes on the women’s helpline service in the state claim that they have been told that they could quit their jobs or risk being fired. Salaries for the employees working on the UP government’s 181 women’s helpline service have not been paid for eleven months.
A letter submitted to the Additional Labour Commissioner of Lucknow, written by the women workers and the Uttar Pradesh Worker Front, was accessed by NewsClick. The letter reminded the government of the "instructions" issued by the Centre to refrain from layoffs or the retrenchment of workers during the pandemic. They demanded that the wages of all the workers be released immediately.
“The women employees at the centre, which deals with between 200 and 300 distress calls in a day and provides legal assistance to aggrieved women, is itself in distress,” said an employee who deals with complaints.
According to the letter, the women, who were employed by the Hyderabad-based public-private partnership firm, GVK EMRI, are demanding payment of due wages for all the 351 workers across the state who have not been paid over the last eleven months.
"Around 351 employees across the state have not received salaries since May last year,” an employee of the women’s helpline, who wished to remain anonymous, told NewsClick.
The helpline, which was launched in UP on March 8, 2016, after the Delhi gangrape case, has helped over 5 lakh women and rescued 3.5 lakh women until January. One of its senior employees said that rescue work had come to a standstill with their vehicles being unused since July 2019, due to the lack of funds. However, counselling work is on at only a few centres.
All the call centres, which used to deal with survivors of acid attacks, sexual assault, harassment, violence; those who needed emergency police protection, legal services and other consultations, have been asked to shut shop. “All of sudden a discontinuance letter was served to all districts and we were asked not to come to office. The letter did not mention our pending salaries for eleven months," the senior employee informed NewsClick.
The service was launched by former CM Akhilesh Yadav on International Women's Day in March 2016, and was later extended to 64 districts by current CM Yogi Adityanath. The key objective of the helpline was to help women in distress.
A sugamkarta (facilitator) posted in Budaun, who deals with acid attack survivors and women with psychological issues, was shocked to learn that the centres were being shut down, despite the employees soldiering on without salaries for close to a year.
"PM Modi has always been a vocal proponent of women empowerment but what his government is doing for women is not hidden anymore. We have been not paid for eleven months and are still at work, helping needy women and spending money form our own pocket. We do not have any weekly off or any gazetted holidays; we work even on Holi and Diwali if needed," she added.
Calling the Yogi Adityanath government anti-women, she said that crime against women has increased in Uttar Pradesh as compared to the previous regime, “whether its rape, acid attack or domestic violence. We are helping these victims, and they have asked us to stop coming to work. We have been working even during the pandemic,” she added.
Dinkar Kapoor, President of Uttar Pradesh Worker Front, has written a letter to the Department of Women and Child Welfare, Uttar Pradesh, and said that the government’s reluctance in releasing funds is killing the service and leading women to unemployment.
“The women who used to support helpless women are themselves pleading for help. The Yogi government talks about women empowerment on a daily basis and PM Modi himself praised him and advised other states to learn from our CM. However, the reality is that he has not paid salaries to working women for eleven months, and now they have been given a notice to quit their jobs, even though they helped destitute women during the COVID-19 pandemic," Kapoor said.
According to Uttar Pradesh Worker Front, a notice was issued by the Additional Labour Commissioner, Lucknow, to the Director of GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute (EMRI) and the Director of the Women and Child Welfare Department.