Editorial | The question of contractual employees

Greater Kashmir

The question of inequality is a perennial pain that has given sleepless lives to many a great reformer. Likewise the quest of injustice is an unending journey. But there are certain places where inequality and injustice become so brazen and searing that one wonders how such systems keep going inspite of that. A dehumanising, and a murderous, treatment extended to certain section of the population remind one of the times of slavery where humans were considered as lifeless objects that can only be pressed into service as and when required with a minimal degree of maintenance so that the thing doesn’t break down. The case in point here is the condition of contractual employees. In various government departments there are hundreds, in fact thousands, of people who are engaged on the basis of a certain contract. They do the work as do the other employees but these are not considered as permanent employees. Now one can understand that the government cannot go beyond a certain point in absorbing people as permanent employees, but here the question is not about regularising them. That is an entirely different debate. Here the issue is that of the treatment extended to them. One, against the same job that they perform as their permanent counterparts in the departments, they are paid much less. In fact they are paid not even peanuts.

Two, they are treated as beasts of burden. While they do the most of the work, they are paid the least of wages. Take the case of contractual lecturers in our colleges. The difference between what they are paid and the salaries of  the permeant employees is too huge to be explained by any mathematics of justice. And then they are made to work 10 times more than the permeant faculty. It is only the absence of choice that makes these people opt for such a dehumanising arrangement. Third, these contractuals in al the departments are always at the  mercy of luck. If anything happens to them, they are no one’s baby. We have seen the fate of the filed staff working in the power development department. How they are made to work without any safety measures in place. And when an accident happens to them while they are on duty, they are left to themselves. This brazen injustice sounds like a piece of fiction describing the   condition of slaves in the bygone eras.