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Tata hospital help for jobless refused

Mumbai, Oct. 7: The wife of Akhtar Khan, the former Tata Power project worker who is battling for his life after a suicide bid on Friday, has turned down the Tata management offer to bear all medical expenses.

Akhtar, who set himself on fire in front of the Tata headquarters, Bombay House, is still in a critical condition at Masina Hospital. His former colleague Anand Dalvi, who also set himself ablaze, died on Friday night.

Akhtar and Dalvi, employed as “temporary mazdoors” in Tata Power projects over several years, were left jobless along with 500-odd others as their contracts lapsed in 1996. About 70 of them filed a case against the management in the labour court.

In a statement to the chief administrative officer, Masina Hospital, today, Akhtar’s wife Amina and Akhtar’s and Dalvi’s former colleagues said they had refused to accept any help or assistance from the Tatas.

The statement also asked the hospital management not to entertain any doctor from the Tata organisation if he or she wanted to examine Akhtar.

The letter has been signed and submitted by Chandbibi Zaidi of the Mumbai Mazdoor Sabha, a trade union which has paid all the medical bills of Akhtar.

A Tata Power spokesperson said the company made the offer of bearing the medical expenses on “humanitarian” grounds, since the incident occurred in front of Bombay House.

The trade union has decided to file a case on behalf of Akhtar and Dalvi. “We will base our case on the Compensation Act,” Zaidi said. “They were eligible to be treated as permanent employees, given the years of service, their appointment letters in the name of the company and their membership of the company union that did not cease with their employment,” she added.

She said that since the case was still pending, the company did not have any right to wash their hands of them.

Tata Power has distanced itself from the case from the start, acknowledging these workers only as contractual workers to whom the company’s responsibility ceased when their contracts came to an end.

Akhtar and Dalvi, both in their forties, were among 70-odd former workers who had remained jobless since 1996. Some of the men gathered outside Bombay House on Friday to press their demand for relief. They had believed that the employees’ union at Tata Power would negotiate a compensation package for them. But they could not even meet the union leader, Kailesh Shinde. Dejected, Akhtar and Dalvi set themselves on fire. Dalvi is survived by his mother, his wife and three children. Akhtar and Amina have five daughters.

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