A protest meeting was organised on July 26 at the company gate of Bhagwati Private Ltd. in Pantnagar, Uttarakhand, against the retrenchment of 303 workers and laying off of 47 more. The workers have been fighting for the last seven months, demanding reinstatement of all the workers whose employment had been terminated.
The workers have claimed that the company colluded with the Uttarakhand government to illegally terminate the employment of 303 permanent employees having B. Tech. degrees and diplomas who had been working with the company for five years, on December 27, 2018. Ever since then, both male and female workers have been continuously sitting on dharna outside the company gate.
During the last seven months, several rallies and protest demonstrations had also been organised by the workers. The employees of the company have urged all workers and workers’ unions to come together and join their fight against the company administration and the state government. Many workers’ unions and organisations have extended their solidarity to the fight of the workers of Bhagwati Private Ltd.
The Complete Story
It should not be ignored that these workers have been protesting since December 27, 2018, that is, more than 200 days have passed since their protests began. According to the employees, they were given a three-day long holiday during Christmas in December; when they came back to work after the holiday, there was a notice on the gate that had more than 300 names, saying that the employment of these workers had been terminated.
This shocked the workers, because this decision was taken without giving the employees any previous notice. The management’s decision to retrench so many workers, and the way it was done, angered the employees. When they questioned the management about this illegal termination, they were told that the factory does not have the need for so many workers, which is why they were being dismissed. However, the terminated workers have said that when they were working in the factory, the workload was more than what they could bear. They did not understand why there was a sudden lack of work in the factory.
Ever since, the employees of Bhagwati Products (Micromax) have been fighting against this retrenchment, they sit on dharna outside the company gate all day and all night. During this period, the management has continuously showered the protesting workers with difficulties and several cases have also been lodged against the workers. Since June 25, the workers have also been sitting on relay hunger strike.
Violation of Court Order
When the administration and the state government failed to serve the workers with justice, they were forced to approach the high court. In a victory for the workers, Nainital High Court ordered the company administration to solve the matter within 40 days.
The one-judge bench consisting of Justice Alok Singh on April 30, 2019, asked the state government to intervene and make sure that the issue is sorted within 40 days. This order gave the workers some hope that at least the court had listened to them. After this, the workers sent a copy of this order to the chief labour secretary, Uttarakhand, urging that a hearing be immediately arranged. However, the workers were once again disappointed, as the chief secretary said that there was no urgency in the matter and the decision will be taken by the labour court.
This angered the employees even further and they were forced to strengthen their protests, and organise more rallies and marches. The president of Bhagwati Workers’ Union, Suraj Singh told NewsClick that the workers have been facing a lot of difficulties, including false cases lodged by the company administration. The BJP state government, administration, labour department, and the police have constantly been on the company’s side. He said, “Despite all the adverse conditions, we will continue our fight. We have been on an indefinite relay hunger strike for last 22 days, despite the company management’s every attempt to stop us. We won’t stop fighting until all the workers have been reinstated.”
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