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Delhi’s Contractual Workers Wait for Regularisation Even as Kejriwal Makes Similar Promises in Other States

Ronak Chhabra |
According to trade unions, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had promised to regularise the contractual employees before coming to power in the national capital, but it never materialised.
Arvind kejriwal

New Delhi: Even as Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo Arvind Kejriwal continues pitching for prioritising the regularisation of contractual staff and securing their rights to woo voters in poll-bound states, trade unions in Delhi have been waiting for years to witness similar steps being taken.

According to the trade unions in the national capital, Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal had made similar promise to fetch the votes of government employees and teachers before coming to power in the union territory in 2013 for the first time. However, it turned out to be “fake” as several years have passed without the promise being fulfilled.

Around one lakh employees, including doctors, nurses, teachers, sanitation workers, among others, are working under contractual schemes in various Delhi government department and agencies. As per media reports, in its election manifesto, AAP had promised to regularise services of these employees.

Making a debut, AAP leader Kejriwal became Delhi CM for the first time in December 2013 and formed the UT government with support from the Congress. He, however, quit just after 49 days in office. Subsequently, in the 2015 Assembly elections, the Kejriwal-led AAP received an unprecedented mandate from the people of Delhi; it once again swept the polls in 2020.

“AAP leaders, before coming to power, promised to regularise all the contractual workforce in Delhi. But they have not fulfilled it yet. In the past, contractual employees of several departments have also staged protest demanding regularisation of their services, but to no avail,” Abhishek of All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) told NewsClick on Tuesday.

Ahead of the upcoming elections in Gujarat, where AAP seeks to take its ‘Delhi Model’ of governance pitch to woo voters, Kejriwal announced earlier last week that if his party is brought to power in the state, he will make contractual personnel permanent and impose “same labour, same pay”.

“What stops Mr. Kejriwal from doing the same in Delhi?” Abhishek asked. “We demand that, in order to set an example, a proposal on regularisation of services [of contractual employees] must first be brought in the Delhi Assembly,” he added.

Hired either directly by the government departments or by a private labour contractor, the engagement of contract workers has witnessed a significant rise in numbers across various sectors in India in recent years. Not being on the roll of the department, the workers are usually paid less than the permanent workers and are kept bereft of the social security provisions. Delhi has also followed suit in the rise of contractual labour.

On Tuesday, Prempal Singh of DTC Workers Unity Centre told NewsClick that close to 75% of the workforce in Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) is still employed on contractual basis. In 2014, while appealing to the DTC contractual employees to call off their indefinite strike and fast, Delhi CM Kejriwal had promised to regularise the staff within four to five months.

“But that has not been fulfilled as yet, despite our multiple protests and demonstrations since then,” lamented Singh, adding that the irregular wages – based on a kilometre scheme – of the contractual workers only add to their woes.

In a parallel development this month, around 25,000 contractual employees of the Punjab government, who have completed ten years of service, will be regularised by the Bhagwant Mann-led AAP government there, after a poll promise in this regard was made in the state Assembly elections held this year.

But then again, this doesn’t “help” the aggrieved contractual workers in Delhi who now say that a “fake” promise was made to them, said Vijender Gaur of Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). According to him, over 1,500 workers are employed through a third-party labour supplier in Delhi Jal Board (DJB); they have been working for many years now and are “eagerly waiting” to be regularised.

Asked about the regularisation of 700 contractual DJB employees in February this year, which was then hailed as a first-of-its-kind step in the country, Gaur told NewsClick that the said employees were those who were appointed on compassionate grounds after the death of a relative. “They were regularised under a process which is continuing since 2012. It cannot be termed as regularisation of contractual workers,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gaur also flayed the Delhi government for not convening “a single meeting” of the Delhi State Advisory Contract Labour Board, which is constituted under the Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970,  in the last two years

“The Board is constituted to advice the government on matters pertaining to contract workers. However, since the last two years, not a single meeting has been held by the Delhi government,” said Gaur, who is a member of the said Board

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