Bhim Army Chief and founder of the Azad Samaj Party, Chandrashekhar Azad Ravan arrived at Noida on Saturday Morning to lend support to the sanitation workers’ protest. Six of these workers had been arrested. Azad stated that if they are not released by 24th September, he will call for a nationwide agitation.
The sanitation workers, most of whom come from Dalit backgrounds, have been protesting the contract system that the Noida authorities had devised since September 1st. Income disparity and alleged mistreatment by contractors are their main concerns. They had been working for over 10 years and only earning ₹11,000 and have no other benefits. The contract labour system breeds job insecurity and makes them especially vulnerable despite working for so many years. They have been asking the authorities to regularise their jobs, increase their salaries and give an annual bonus.
The workers had been marching to the authority’s office in Sector 6 when the police lathi charged them and arrested six of them.
The protests intensified when two days ago when Anil Kumar (35) was driven to suicide after authorities sent notices threatening to fire the workers if they continue protesting.
Anil’s wife Sushma Kumari (30) said: “I had gone to my village in Meerut along with the children for a few days. Hours before he hanged himself, Anil called me. First he asked about the children… then he told me he had lost his job. I knew he was worried about his work but I never imagined he would do something like this… I have six children, the eldest is 11.”
Chandrashekhar Azad, along with the local party workers from the Azad Samaj Party, met protestors outside the office. The party sent its demands to the Noida Authority CEO Ritu Maheshwari. Their main demand is to abolish the contractual employment system and employ the workers directly by Noida Authority. Azad stated:
Only our people get as little as Rs 6,000. In meerut too, sanitation workers are being made to work without PPE kits. this is the ugly truth behind privatisation, which PM is implementing in Delhi in the garb of COVID.
While urging the authorities to release arrested workers, Azad said “People from the entire country will come to Noida to protest like they did in Delhi if the workers are not released at the earliest. Jai Bhim slogans will reverberate even in Lucknow.”