Sanitation workers across the country face great employment uncertainty.  |  Photo Credit: PTI
- The staff were employed in welfare institutions such as old age homes, housing some of the most vulnerable and high-risk individuals
- In late April, the Telangana government culled 144 outsourced employees, including malis and security personnel working at the government’s Horticulture department
- In mid-May, the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) placed a looming question mark over the livelihoods of 7,600 outsourced workers
Hundreds of employees working in Kerala’s Social Justice Department, including special educators, nurses, and multitask care providers, appointed on a contractual basis via the Kerala Social Security Mission have lost their jobs, as state coffers run dry due to the coronavirus pandemic. Kerala’s response to the outbreak has received international recognition, but the state’s public and financial resources, as is the case with all of India’s states, have come under heavy strain.
The culled staff who had not been paid for five months, had had their contracts extended from March 31 to June 30. Crucially, the staff were employed in welfare institutions such as old age homes, housing some of the most vulnerable and high-risk individuals. Kerala’s SJD confirmed that, while measures were being undertaken to make outstanding salary payments, it could no longer afford to have the staff on its payroll any longer.
State coffers run dry, contract workers face the axe
Such layoffs are not exclusive to Kerala though. In late April, the Telangana government, just a day before IT Minister KT Rama Rao issued a clarion call for the private sector to avoid sacking employees, culled 144 outsourced employees, including malis and security personnel working at the government’s Horticulture department, citing financial difficulties.
In mid-May, the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) placed a looming question mark over the livelihoods of 7,600 outsourced workers, instructing bus depot managers only to engage permanent workers while the lockdown was in place. The workers included cleaners, sweepers, typists, peons, mechanics, data entry operators and assistants in RTC hospitals. The sacked employees had not received their salaries in the month of April.
In Haryana, 70 outsourced santitation workers employed by the Jind Municipal Committee, who had served dilligently as part of the state’s COVID-19 response team, were also let go at the start of June. The Jind MC had noted that since the state government had sent a sweeping machine, their services were no longer required.
These workers add to the 340 other employees of the Haryana Tourism Corporation who were shown the door in May, also as a result of dwindling revenue. 50 contract workers employed by the Ambala Sadar Municipal Corporation were also terminated by the district administration following the expirty of their contracts in mid-June, prompting a protest outside the municipality premises. Many of these workers had held employment with the MC for several years.
Following the imposition of the lockdown on March 23, the Ministry of Labour and Employment issued an advisory urging all public and private employers to take all measures to ensure that employment and wages were protected.
However, with the failure of the central government and state governments to flatten the curve, and the multiple extensions of the lockdown, casual, outsourced and contract labourers have been the first ones on the chopping block. Although there has been some improvement in job creation since the resumption of business and public services in June, the futures of millions of India’s workers continue to hang in the balance.
The views expressed by the author are personal and do not in any way represent those of Times Network.