Jammu: Employees working in various public sector undertakings (PSUs) in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday held a protest demonstration against non-payment of salaries under the banner Jammu and Kashmir Public Sector Employees and Workers Federation, alleging that their families were on the “verge of starvation”.
“We are only given assurances and no salaries. Despite several assurances by the government, we have not received salaries for months. We are suffering, and our families are on the verge of starvation,” said Wajahat Hussain, president of the Federation.
Hussain alleged that two of their colleagues who were working with JK Cements had died as they had no money for medical treatment. “This is our condition. We have no money to even spend to get ourselves treated.”
NewsClick spoke to the son of one of the employees, Nazir Ahmed Bhat, who worked with JK Cements and died 15 days ago. Tanveer Ahmed Bhat, 23, said his father had a life-threatening tumour but they didn’t have enough money for his proper treatment. “If we had money, we would have taken him to Amritsar or Delhi and may be, he would have survived,” he said.
After his father’s tumour was detected six months ago, Tanveer, who belongs to Pulwama district, left his studies and started working as a daily wager. “My father had not received his salary since two years. He would earn almost 50,000 a month. After his financial condition deteriorated, I had no option but to leave my studies and take up the responsibility.”
Several employees NewsClick spoke to shared similar stories of financial crunch, with quite a few of them saying they had been living in debt with many family members doing odd jobs to make two ends meet.
As per data shared by the Federation, employees of the State Forest Corporation have been without salaries for last six months, employees working with JKSRTC have not received salaries for the last four months, JK cement employees have been working without salaries for the last 22 months. Not just that, the employees working at the Handicraft Corporation and Handloom Corporation have been without salaries for the last 12 and six months, respectively. The federation alleged that those who retired in the past two years have not been able to even avail their retirement benefits.
Last year, the proposal to close and merge four PSUs, including J&K Small Scale Industries Development Corporation (SICOP), J&K Minerals Limited and J&K Industries, Limited and privatisation of J&K Cements Limited by the J&K administration under Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu, had elicited sharp reactions from the regional parties, who had termed the decision as “shocking”.
Notably, the PSUs were not closed and the order was kept on hold. “After the abrogation of Article 370, we were told that in the J&K Re-organisation Act, a committee has been formed to decide on the working of PSUs – whether they will be closed or merged. But it has been almost two years and there has no report from the committee and no decision has been made. And we are, here, without salaries, waiting for the government response,” Hussain told NewsClick.
In a report released by the government on the condition of PSUs in 2018, it was noted that 18 PSUs had suffered losses of about Rs 191 crore, of which J&K Cements Ltd had topped the list with a loss of Rs 46.74 crore-Rs 31.73 crore in 2016-17 and Rs 15.01 crore in 2017-18.
Hussain said that the government has not provided them any support. “PSUs are not in danger, the government has pushed them into a pit. Till now, there is no concrete policy in place for PSUs in Jammu and Kashmir. Can you believe that?”
According to the Federation, there are roughly around 5,000-6,000 employees across J&K who have not received their salaries. Amanpreet Singh, President from Jammu division said they had met the Lieutenant Governor last month who had given them assurances. “But nothing happened after those assurances. We were told an action will be taken but nothing has happened so far.”
The federation has, once again, written to the governor but there has been no response.
After being met with silence, the J&K Public Sector Employees and Workers Federation is determined to intensify their struggle.
“If we receive no reply from the JK administration in next few days, we will be holding a huge protest demonstration in Jammu division and as well as in Kashmir. We are being forced to step out into the streets. We won’t keep silent now,” said Singh said.