“Theka”, “anubandh” and contract are very well known terms for workers! Contract (labour) is not merely a word, but is closely associated with fear of being unemployed, getting the lowest wages, social insecurity, and working without ESI (Employee State Insurance) and PF (Provident Fund), and being over exploited.
This is precisely what is happening with the 166 contract employees who work on various programmes of Prasaar Bharti of the state owned Doordarshan.
These employees have been working continuously for past 10-15 years. They work at Doordarshan stations spread across India – Delhi, Gangtok, Raipur, Patna, Mau, Mirzapur, Indore, Allahabad, Gwalior, Bhopal and so on, and various programme – Doordarshan Delhi, Doordarshan India, Doordarshan Urdu, Doordarshan Khel (Sports), Doordarshan India CPC, Doordarshan Special Central Production Center (CPC), NC-KD, Archive, ADG (DC), DD Bharti, etc.
They are all working in various positions like Broadcast Executive Grade-1, Broadcast Executive Grade-2, Editing, Graphic Artist, Archive Assistant, Creative Editor, Post-production Assistant Grade-1, Post-production Assistant Grade-2, etc.
At the end of each month they are not paid wages, but a consolidated amount as remuneration. This ranges from Rs. 9829 to a maximum of Rs. 35,000. But most of these employees fall under the bracket of Rs. 17000-20000. Besides this they don’t get any form of social security benefit like health insurance, provident fund, etc. Despite working for a substantial number of years, the management has not adopted the process of regularising them as permanent employees. And despite doing the same type of work at similar position, with equal amount of experience, they are discriminated against as compared to regular employees.
In 2003 these employees were recruited by Broadcast Engineering Consultant India Limited (BECIL), an enterprise of Government of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, which is a mini-ratna company, on contract to work for Doordarshan. They were selected through an interview process by an eminent panel consisting of senior officials of BECIL and Doordarshan.
After working for 9 years in the same post, their academic and training documents were again scrutinized and they had to give a test and an interview. Subsequently their contract got transferred from BECIL to Prasaar Bharti. They were employed under the Policy for Contractual Employees, and were kept on contract on various channels of Doordarshan other than Doordarshan Samachar (News). These employees informed Mazdoor Ekta Lehar correspondent, that in 2007-2008 they were given a raise of 14-20%. After this they had to face the hardships of price-rise without getting any raise. In response to a determined struggle by these workers, they were given a one year contract with Doordarshan in 2012 with a nominal raise. Despite many adverse clauses in the contract they had to accept it considering their family condition and needs.
They told us that after this contract came to an end in February 2014, it was being extended by one month at a time. “What will happen next month, this question worries us!” Over the years, our remuneration has stagnated. We all know how fast the prices are increasing and we professional, skilled and experienced media personnel are being exploited.
These employees have presented their just demands to the officials of the Central Government, Prasaar Bharti, Doordarshan, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and the Prime Minister. They are fighting for a long term arrangement, with equal wages for equal work and experience, social security including PF, health insurance, HRA, DA, and wages as per 6th Pay Commission recommendations.