2 Decades Till Pension

Community Correspondent Madhukar Gorakh brings a video today that highlights the gross violations of labour laws taking place in Chhattisgarh, India.

For 20 years of her life Sukhiya Bai went to work at the Bilaspur Spinning Mill. Set in Lalkhadan, Bilaspur, this mill was one of thousands that fed into Chhattisgarh’s bustling industry sector. Each day at work for Sukhiya was spent weaving not only fabrics but also dreams of a life where she could stand on her own feet.

When the mill was unexpectedly shut down in 1992 she found herself with no job. An uncertain future loomed ahead. It was the same for the 1500 other workers at the Mill. The only ray of hope was that they were all due some amount of compensation as pensions, provident funds and gratuities.

21 years later the workers are still waiting. Most of them are now well into their 60’s and are at stages in their lives when every paisa they earn is precious. The pension and gratuity they ask for are their rights.

“After deducting money from our salaries for 10 years, they should have started paying us a long time ago”, says Shyamlal Srivastav, an ex-worker.

In the years since, some of the workers have gone back to working on farmlands while others have migrated to various parts of the state and country. Even as life moves on, they continue to fight a slow legal battle. Regiram Rathod, one of the workers holds up a piece of paper from a court judgement, which states that the workers are owed Rs.23 lakh.

The judgement, should you ask, has been ignored.

Chhattisgarh, one of the most rapidly industrialising states of India holds a pathetic human rights record. On one hand large swathes of farmland are being taken over to make way for industries, claiming future development. On the other hand those who do join factories and mills like the Bilaspur Spinning Mill and Kalindi Ispat Factory with the hope of regular incomes, find themselves cheated out of what they are owed. Their stories get lost somewhere between the coverage of the Maoist Insurgency in the state and other related political dramas.

“Increased industrialisation hasn’t brought any benefits to the people of Chhattisgarh. What is the idea of development here? Are the people for whom ‘development’ projects are carried out really benefitting?” asks Madhukar.

Madhukar, a veteran social activist has been working on labour issues for at least two decades or “Ever since I learnt how to open my mouth” as he puts it. He says he hasn’t seen any improvement in the situation. He says:

“Workers are treated like livestock, like they have no rights. When they demand what is theirs by right, they are accused of being a law and order threat. They haven’t concocted the figures for these pensions and gratuities out of thin air. The LAW grants them these. So how is it that factories, big, small, private and public can get away with flouting these laws with such ease?”

Madhukar asks all of you to lend your support to the worker’s fight for their right.

Call to Action: please call the pension commissioner of Bilaspur District, Chhattisgarh, on 07712583892 and ask him to ensure that the workers are aid the pension they are due.

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