Letter to Virbhadra Singh over his silence on exploitation of Shongtong-Karcham laborers
My Dear Virbhadra Singh Ji,
You are aware of the industrial dispute going on in Shongtong-Karcham Hydel Project. Today is the 112 day of the strike and the 5th day of indefinite fast. Inspite of this, efforts are not visible to provide justice to the workers.
There is a huge hoarding close to the secretariat building that belongs to the Public Relations Department, which reads “Mananiya Mukhyamantri Shr. Virbhadra Singh Ji Ke Kushal Netritwa Mein Samvedansheel Sarkar – Swachh Prashashan”
I do not understand what a Samvedansheel Sarkar (sensitive government) means, but by all democratic and humane yardsticks the attitude of government towards the Shongtong-Karcham hydel project workers cannot be covered within the parameter of sensitivity.
The workers are firm to carry on the struggle. It is a reaction to the exploitation by the company and the contractors. In the past, whoever demanded the implementation of law was terminated from service.
In October, 2013, the President Jeet Negi, the Gen. Secretary Rajvansh Negi, the Vice President Kuldip Negi were terminated from service along with three other activists of the labor union.
Soam Dev Negi was one amongst the three. Their only crime was to demand, payment of minimum wages, overtime wages, weekly off, wage slip as per law, provident fund deductions, accommodation as per law etc.
Sonam Negi, one of the terminated workers, was tortured and humiliated by the contractors. Being unable to digest the pain he chose to commit suicide by jumping into the Satluj River on November 18, 2013. This is recorded in the daily diaries of Police Station Recong Peo vide G.D entry No: 32(A). His body was subsequently recovered in a decomposed state on April 28, 2014.
The contractors eclipsed the sensitivity of the Govt. and under their pressure the case did not proceed. The truth has not been revealed. The contractors were able to transfer S.P Kinnaur only within one and half months of his joining. What was his crime: that he did not lathcharge the peaceful striking workers?
The labour officer has been transferred and his crime was that he recorded that pending conciliation proceedings stating that Patel Management and contractors could neither recruit nor terminate the services of the workers as per the provisions of the Law.
I am no one to advise the government. But if the slogan of sensitivity is to prevail, it must be practiced by the government. The rights of the workers must be given to them. Justice must be done with the family of Soam Dev Negi which includes his wife and two school going children. This is another test case for your government, whether it is actually sensitive to the problems o f the people. Slogans must not be given for slogan sake. They must be practiced.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Himachal Watcher.