More than 300 contract workers marched on 21st January 2019 from the Badarpur Thermal Power Station (BTPS) located in Delhi, past Humayun’s tomb in Nizammudin to the head office of NTPC. The rally was taken past the CGO complex and down Lodi Road before it turned into a demonstration in front of the NTPC headquarters.
The workers demanded that legal notice should be served to close down BTPS, that workers who have been terminated be given due compensation and rehabilitated at alternative jobs in the National Capital Region, that their wages and other pending dues be settled promptly and that contractual workers be given experience certificates.
The contract workers have been waging a struggle for these demands since the past three months. In fact, the workers had marched in the first instance on 8th November 2018 under the banner of Mazdoor Ekta Committee from Mandi House to Parliament Street. Following this, they took out a rally on 27th December from Nizammudin to the ILO office in Lodhi Road. These contract workers have been consistently waging their struggle.
The government closed down NTPC in October 2018 on the pretext of severe pollution in the capital. 600 contract workers had been working in the plant till 15th October 2018. Retaining only 70 contract workers to wind up the work, the remaining were dismissed. These workers had been working since the past several years, though their contractor changed every year. The contract workers were not given any notice before the plant was closed.
Addressing the meeting on 21st January, Birju Nayak of the Mazdoor Ekta Committee pointed out that the government was closing down public sector enterprises. It is giving away the valuable land and resources of these enterprises to big capitalists. BTPS was shut down in the name of pollution to enable these capitalists to appropriate its valuable land. Just like DCM was closed by saying that it was loss-making and today huge mansions are standing on its land.
Trade Union leader and advocate O.P. Gupta who has been leading the struggles of the contract workers of BTPS said that only contract workers were appointed in public sector enterprises in place of permanent workers on their retirement or death. Vacancies are filled only by contract workers. A full year’s work of BTPS was being carried out by contract workers. These workers are only paid minimum wages and are not given leave or any other benefits. The contractors and government are conniving to exploit these workers.
The protest was called off when NTPC’s Human Resources Manager and Secretary to the Chairman arrived at the demonstration and promised to consider the demands of the workers.
Pankaj Kumar, the leader of the workers, warned that if the NTPC management does not fulfil their demands in the coming days, the workers will gherao the Prime Minister’s house.