Working on a salary of Rs. 25 per month

In Bandipora sweepers employed in government middle schools and school caretakers are paid a monthly ‘salary’ of 25 rupees for their work

EXPLOITATION

MAJID MAQBOOL

In 1988,when Muhammad Subhan Wani was employed as a sweeper on a monthly salary of Rs 25 in middle school, Chak Arsulla Khan, Bandipora, he had hoped for a respectable salary in the years ahead. For allowing the school to come up on his land, he was also promised jobs for his sons, besides hike in his salary.  Leave alone the rent for the land, which remains unpaid to him till date, Wani’s salary has remained unchanged for the past 25 years: Rs 25 per month.
“In 1988 the ZEO of Bandipora Sheela Tickoo approached me and asked for my land to setup the middle school,” says 64-year old Wani while showing the copies of his employment order dating back to 1988 and other documents related to the land given for the school building. Wani was appointed as Sweeper-Cum–Chowkidar (vide order No Accts/33-34, dated 04-04-1988) on a monthly salary of Rs 25 in 1988. He was also responsible for watch and ward of the school.
“I gave my land and I was employed as a sweeper on a salary of Rs 25 per month,” he says. “I did not get any compensation for the land given for school and my salary has remained the same 25 rupees for the past two decades.” He says his property of walnut and poplar trees worth lakhs was lost after he gave the land for the construction of the school.  I was told that after some months my salary will be increased and my sons will also be employed, he says, but those promises were never fulfilled. His salary has remained static, at Rs 25 per month, for more than two decades now. And even this meager amount is not given to him on time. 
Wani says he has not been paid even this small amount since January 2012.  “Today you get a small cigarette packet for 40 rupees,” Wani says with an ironic smile. “How will my family survive on Rs 25?” Wani believes the present government and ZEO offices in Bandipora are full of ‘Dakus’. “I have been going every year to the education department and ZEOs, asking them to raise my salary,” he says. “But they don’t listen to poor people like us.”
After 1990 Wani’s elder son was also employed as sweeper in the same school. He too has been drawing the same monthly salary of Rs 25. Whenever Wani approaches the ZEO office in Bandipora, he says he was asked for affidavits, applications and other documents to prove his employment. “They don’t allow my application to move forward,” he says. “There’re dakus in education department who are exploiting people like us,” he says angrily. “Ate che daku beheath”
Interestingly, in 2008 (vide order No ZB/08/2861-62 Dated 07-01-2008) Wani’s salary was ‘increased’ to Rs 50 per month after the intervention of a local MLA. “The case is submitted with a request that the roll of the school is meager and the office is not in a position to enhance the wage of the CPE from local funds up to Rs 300. However Rs 50 shall be paid to the concerned CPE out of the local funds,” the order copy reads.  Wani, however, says even this 25 rupees hike did not materialize.
Wani and his son have to open the school and clean its toilets every day before 9:30 in the morning. If we don’t go on time, he says the headmaster tells them that they will employ another person. If anything happens to the school near his house, Wani says he is held responsible at that time. He also has to take care of the school for four months in winter besides being on night duty. “I have to look after the school day and night, but what do I get in the end for all this hard work,” he asks before answering his own question with a laugh. “punchae rupeye har raete!” (RS 25 per month!)
Wani believes the biggest impediment in his salary hike, if at all one can call Rs 25 per month as salary, is the bribe that clerks and education department officials ask for whenever he approaches them for help. “I think they want one lakh rupees as bribe from me,” he says and breaks into another laugh, “then only they will hike my salary by few more rupees.”
The middle school which employs Wani, with a roll of 50 students, has a staff of three permanent teachers and a headmaster. “They get over Rs 20,000 monthly salary,” he says, “and I have to work every day from morning till evening and also in the winter months as caretaker and I get 25 rupees as salary.”
Wani says it is a joke that he and his son still get paid Rs 25 as monthly salary for working everyday in the school, besides taking care of the school when the school teachers and headmaster are holidaying in winter. “Omar Abdullah might be spending thousands on just having tea,” he says. “And look at the zulm on people like us. How will a family of seven survive on a monthly salary of Rs 25?” 
Showing the documents of his land on which the middle school was built, Wani says he gave the land on the promise of the ZEO in 1988 that his two sons will be employed in the years ahead. Post 1990 the ZEO left the valley.  The promise was never kept. He also shows the documents issued by the panch of the area in 1988, mentioning that his sons will be employed when another school is established in the area. He has now taken the case to the Srinagar High Court. “I have to pay a fee to my lawyer which is thousand times more than the salary I am getting here,” he says.
Wani is not the only employee who is getting this unique salary of Rs 25 for their work in the middle schools of Bandipora. There are over 200 such employees who get peanuts for their work.  In Malikpora village of Bandipora, two years back Khurshid Ahmad Malik gave his land for the construction of a middle school. He too is getting Rs 25 as a monthly salary.
Another person Ghulam Ahmad Bhat was employed as a sweeper in another middle school in Sumblar, Bandipora. Four years back Bhat also gave his land for the school. Like in other cases, the rent for the land acquired was not paid to him. He has been working as a sweeper for the past seven years now and his salary remains unchanged at Rs 25 per month.
Another employee Javiad Ahmad Malik, employed as a sweeper in a middle school in Shokhbaba, Bandipora, is also getting this paltry salary of Rs 25 per month for his work in the school. Initially, till 1994, he worked as a sweeper in this school, after which his wife was employed as a sweeper in the same school. She has been working as a sweeper in the middle school for more than 12 years now and getting paid the same salary of Rs 25 per month which was never increased. “Sometimes they give us Rs 100 after months and then tell us not to ask for the salary in the months ahead,” says Malik. “Even these 25 rupees are not given to us on time.”
Chief Education Officer, Bandipora Dr. Abdul Qayoom Shah says there are around 398 CPW (Contingent paid workers) in Bandipora zone out of which 46 posts are reserved for class 4th employees. He says there are around 200 to 250 employees like Muhammad Subhan Wani in Bandipora zone who are getting a meager salary of Rs 25 per month for their work for many years now.  “I think it an injustice with these employees and their salary should be enhanced,” Shah says, adding that the rent and jobs in lieu of the land given for school construction has been nullified by the government orders. “I tried to raise it to Rs 500 per month in some cases, but still there are many such workers who are working in the schools on this meager salary.”
(Feedback at maqbool.majid@gmail.com)

Lastupdate on : Tue, 16 Apr 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 16 Apr 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 17 Apr 2013 00:00:00 IST




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