UP: Police Crack Down on Dial 112 Helpline Workers During Protest in Lucknow
Image caption: special arrangement
Lucknow: Geeta*, a communication specialist at Uttar Pradesh's Dial 112 — the integrated emergency response centre of the police in various states-- attends about 500 daily calls related to suicide, fire, road accidents and roadside assistance. During festival season the number of calls go up to 700-800 a day, and they claim they are also denied leave.
Geeta has worked for the past six years with the UP government as a contractual worker and saved dozens of lives. Everything has changed in these years; what has not changed is Geeta’s salary. The lone breadwinner for her six-member family now sits on the road with hundreds of her colleagues, demanding salary increments.
“We are getting Rs 11,800 per month, and our salary has not increased in the past seven years. We have been forced to work 365 days. Are we bonded labourers? Even a labourer makes Rs 15,000 to 20,000 per month. We are expected to do tireless work, that too on meagre salaries,” said Geeta. She said that on the minimal salaries, they cannot afford their own expenses, let alone support their families.
Pooja*, another emergency helpline employee who is part of the protest, told NewsClick, “We have been working with the same salary for the past seven years. A monthly pay of Rs 11,800 is too little to run a family. All of my salary goes into paying the house rent, electricity bill and food. In case of a medical emergency, I borrow money from my relatives. But how long will it run? I have my mother and sister to take care of,” an emotional Pooja said.
They have been demanding an increased Rs 18,000 in-hand salary from the current Rs 11,800, weekly leave, two paid leaves a month and job security with all benefits of gratuity and provident fund.
“We have been on strike since Sunday, but the government has not even bothered to talk to us,” said the protesting women.
With more than 70% of the workforce hitting the street, others had to pitch in with extra working hours so that emergency calls from across the state could be addressed.
The protesting workers said they could not work unless the government provided them with better salaries and facilities.
On Tuesday, some protesters were detained when they demanded to meet Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to address their issue. Later, the police ‘forcefully’ shifted the protest from Arjungan, under the jurisdiction of the Sushant Golf City police station, to Eco Garden.
“We were literally beaten by both male and female cops and mercilessly dragged. They are mistaken if they think we will end the protest,” they said.
The aggrieved workers raised slogans to press for their demands and said they were suffering amid minimal wages. They said that despite their tireless work, they get “peanuts” in return.
A case has been registered at Sushant Golf City police station against five named protesters and 150-200 others under sections 147, 149, 188, 283, and 341 of the Indian Penal Code.
Reacting on the FIR, the protesting workers said, "This is how the government and police work. Instead of making sure to provide job security and increment, they took action against us. We are left with nothing... No job and this case as a gift. "
Dial 112 in Uttar Pradesh services receives complaints via social media applications such as Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, and through email and SMS.
In UP, the service operates out of call centres in Lucknow, Ghaziabad and Prayagraj. Calls regarding police help from across the state land at these three centres are directed to local stations for acting on them. Around 700 female communication specialists or call takers work at all three centres.
Anger started brewing on November 3, when the UP Police’s contract with Tech Mahindra for managing the call centres in the state ended. The new contract was handed over to We Win. The new company, however, has not provided appointment letters so far, leading to the protest.
The protesting workers are frustrated over potential job losses due to changing outsourcing companies. The protest persisted even after ADG UP 112, Ashok Singh assured the protesters that they would not lose their jobs.
The protesters said that apart from a hike in salary, they needed appointment letters from the new company to ensure they would be absorbed and get at least two off days in a month.
A similar protest, they said, had started in Ghaziabad and Prayagraj.
The new company, We Win, had agreed to increase the employees’ monthly salary to Rs 15,000, according to police, but the protesting women said they would not resume work until they get a written assurance of Rs 18,000 per month and fulfilment of other demands.
“The police are completely lying about the salary increment by We Win. The company officials asked us to work with the same salary and end the protest. When we refused, they fired us, giving us a termination letter,” Priya Tiwari, leading the protest, told NewsClick.
In 2019, CM Adityanath launched the integrated emergency service at 112 in Uttar Pradesh. It is an all-encompassing emergency helpline number to access police, fire brigade, ambulance and other services under the Emergency Response Support System (ERSS) to eliminate the need to remember multiple numbers. The number works across India.
ERSS is an integration of police (100), fire (101), health (108) and women (1090) helpline numbers to provide emergency services through the single number ‘112’.
Meanwhile, Former chief minister and Samajwadi Party supremo Akhilesh Yadav also took to X to criticise the state government. “... Even before meeting the CM, the sisters and daughters who sat in the cold all night and made their demands were taken into custody in the morning. The true form of BJP’s worship of women is ‘Nari Bandhan’,” he posted https://x.com/yadavakhilesh/status/1721804491622875217?s=20
In another post, Yadav shared a video of police detaining the protesters. “Those who talk about giving reservations to women are giving them detainment. Have those who changed the name changed the name of ‘Reservation’ to ‘Hirasat’?” he said in it.
In a similar situation in 2020, the 181 women’s helpline (now merged with 112), which was launched on March 8, 2016, after the Delhi gangrape case faced a similar ordeal when the workers were denied their monthly salary for eleven months.
Allegedly distressed over pending salary, an employee died by suicide. She had allegedly jumped before a train at the Shyamnagar railway crossing area in Kanpur. She was among many workers who had not received their salaries for the past 11 months.
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