The Telegraph
Wednesday , May 4 , 2011
Since 1st March, 1999
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Protest keeps new officer at bay

Patna, May 3: Over 150 agitated Patna Jal Parishad (water board) employees stormed the Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) office today at Mauryalok shopping complex demanding outstanding salaries. The employees had planned to “gherao” Rahul Singh, who has been appointed PMC commissioner. Sources said he was about to join today but did not as the news of the protest spread.

The employees on protest have threatened to go on a two-day strike starting May 10 and have called for an indefinite strike from May 17.

“We have been fooled by the officials and we cannot take their fake promises any more. If we are not paid, we will not work. On the 10th and 11th of this month, water supply to entire Patna will remain suspended as the employees will be on strike,” said Jyoti Gupta, leader of PMC Water Board Employees’ Union.

The employees led by Jyoti stormed into several senior officials’ chambers and demanded their outstanding salaries be paid immediately. Sources said Nirmal Chandra Jha, the acting PMC commissioner, made a backdoor exit. Commissioner Devesh Sehra has been sent to Bengal for Assembly election-related work. Sehra would take over as the commissioner once he returns and Singh would then be shifted. Protesters said those on the master roles have not been paid salaries for the past six months, the daily wage employees and those on contractual basis were not paid for a longer period.

“After the PMC employees went on a strike this March we were promised the payments will be cleared before Holi after which they returned to work. However, we were paid only a month’s salary and the rest of the dues have not been cleared yet. We are feeling cheated and cannot work under such circumstances,” said an angry water board employee Raju Kumar.

The employees were also demanding employment for the family members of Dayanand Ram, a daily wage employee of the water board who had died after immolating himself outside the PMC office in September last year. “Ram committed suicide as he was not paid for months. PMC had promised that his widow will get a job on compassionate ground and she was even sent a letter but nothing has happened till date. Ram’s family like many others employed with the PMC continue to starve,” alleged Gupta.

Mayor Afzal Imam, meanwhile, said frequent transfer of PMC commissioners had caused the mess. “The frequent transfer of officials in the post of commissioner had caused chaos and confusion and has led to the delay in payments. We will try to resolve the matter soon,” he added.

In March, around 3,500 PMC and water board employees had gone on a strike with similar grievances. Employees associated with Indian National Trade Union Congress and Patna Nagar Nigam Staff Union, which included sanitation workers, water board workers and others had returned to work after three days following persuasion by senior urban development department officials who promised all outstanding dues would be cleared soon.

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