J&K: Contingent Paid Workers (CPW) Await Pending Wages with Little Hope
Image Courtesy: Facebook
Srinagar: Shabbir Ahmad Bhat has been working in a government school in South Kashmir's Kulgam district for nearly a decade. He is the first one to arrive and open the school and leaves after everyone leaves before closing it.
Bhat has four unmarried daughters, two sons and a sick wife, but despite working at the primary school, he receives no money or remuneration and has been struggling to make ends meet.
"It's been more than five years since I have been working without wages. I also do labour work to support my family now, and it seems there is no relief after working hard for so many years," Bhat told NewsClick.
Bhat has also donated his 1 Kanal of land to the education department to construct a school, after which he was engaged as a Contingent Paid Worker (CPW) in the department, hoping to receive a regular income in return for his services.
In Jammu and Kashmir, around 7500 such CPWs continue to work without wages for years. About 400 of them are in District Kulgam alone, where more than a hundred CPWs are awaiting their wages after donating their land property to the education department.
Gulzar Ahmad, the president of the CPWs in the district, says that the workers are the worst victims of official apathy.
"Most of them come from weaker sections of the society, and their plight is heartbreaking," he said.
"There are others who have donated over 5 Kanals of orchard land, which is worth crores of rupees, but live in abject poverty in makeshift homes," Gulzar Ahmad added.
The workers have since carried out various protests since their wages were stopped after 2017 by the then PDP-BJP government on a claim that their salaries would be released under a new department head.
The CPWs, who worked on low salaries ranging from Rs 500 to Rs 2000, were responsible for cleaning, sweeping, and working as watchmen.
Gulzar Ahmad maintains a middle school in Khudwani with around 23 rooms and separate bathrooms. He said that they had been regularly approaching the administration for their demands, including that of the pending wages, but to no avail.
The CPWs are also awaiting government formation, believing that a representative assembly will be more empathetic towards their plight than the current bureaucratic set-up. The workers, however, continue to work as CPWs; according to Ahmad, they are hopeful about regularising their service. He added that the government assured them they would be brought under the Minimum Wages Act. That has not happened so far.
The political leadership, including the former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, on the World Labour Day being observed on May 1, said that most of the workers in the region are facing a major crisis in the absence of better wages and the lack of economic opportunities.
Senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader, MY Tarigami, on Monday, led a protest in Srinagar where he called for enhancement of wages whilst lashing out at the administration for being apathetic towards all the workers.
Tarigami also slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government for stalling the electoral process in the region.
"It is difficult to make ends meet in the present times when inflation is soaring. The amount of Rs 24,000 should be fixed as minimum wage irrespective of whether someone is engaged as casual labour or working under various government schemes," Tarigami said.
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.