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ASEB workers fear job loss

Jorhat, Jan. 3: Members of the All Assam ASEB Temporary Workers’ Association have threatened to launch an agitation if they are sacked and replaced with regular workers.

Their fears have grown because the ASEB has hired 750 regular workers for these posts, on the basis of an examination held in 2011. None of the temporary employees managed to clear the exam.

Today, at a news conference, angry office bearers of the association said they would not take exploitation lying down and their anger might spill over and create another Konapathar tea estate-like incident.

Assam State Electricity Board began to recruit temporary workers in 2002, at a time when heavy losses were threatening its survival, said Sanjiv Kakati, an office bearer of the association. The board could not afford to appoint new staff and there were talks of privatisation or shutting down.

“Then, it was we who worked at the ground level and brought in huge revenue. We collected Rs 35 lakh to 40 lakh in ASEB divisions where earlier collections were between Rs 80,000 and Rs 5 lakh. Now, our jobs are at stake,” Kakati said.

“We were recruited with a temporary clause and were hoping for regularisation given the fact that meter readers and bill dispatchers have to cross rivers and ponds to do their job, but are only paid Rs 3 per meter reading and Rs 2 per bill despatched.”

According to Kakati, those who were recruited as temporary helpers for technical personnel had a clause in their appointment letters that said they would be regularised if they gained three years of experience. But an ASEB in-house inquiry found that 16 helpers who didn’t fulfil the experience criteria were regularised.

Their appointments were cancelled, thanks to the inquiry initiated by the association, Kakati said. “All this just proves how anomalous the system is and that these appointments are being made for money can very well be guessed,” he said.

There are around 800 temporary ASEB workers in the state. “We get paid between Rs 2,000 and Rs 4,000, but whatever the amount, we run our house on this,” he said.

The association had moved the high court for regularisation of service, but only 60 have been regularised.

The association’s vice president, Amarjyoti Hazarika, said the government likes to hold examinations because it can make crores from exam fees. “Another Rs 2 to Rs 3 lakh could be had while appointing a fresh candidate after the interview, which we cannot pay.”

“All the temporary workers have a minimum qualification of matric pass. They work as bill clerks, dispatchers, meter readers and helpers of technicians. We may not have been able to pass the exam that was set for brilliant students of today’s age. But we can all say that we have been working in these posts for the last five to 10 years and are doing a commendable job without passing any exam,” Hazarika said.


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