Cash-for-job haunts JNU’s contractual workers 

- April 18, 2024
| By : Kushan Niyogi |

Company demands Rs 1,000 each from the 340 contractual employees; around 270 of them have already paid the sum according to the workers’ union

The administrative block of the Jawaharlal Nehru University

Allegations of extortion of workers have emerged in the Jawaharlal Nehru University following a change in personnel after the retendering process.

According to the said workers, they are being coerced into paying an amount of Rs 1,000 to get employed on a new contract.

As many as 270 out of the 340 employees have already paid the sum which was asked of them, according to the unions in the university.

Asha Joshi, a computer operator and a member of the staff union, said, “We have been able to help 70 contractual workers in not paying up, but the other 270 have already paid up as they got scared of getting laid off.”

The unions say that the accumulated amount has resulted in the company making Rs 2.7 lakh without any paper trail.

The tendering organisation is registered as MS Vigilant Security Placement & Detective Service. It is based inside an alley of Lajpat Nagar. However, the tendering process alongside the placement of the said workers had been undertaken under the aegis of MS Manpower Services.

Multiple unions of the central university have enquired about the jurisdiction under which the workers were being charged an additional amount.

The unions, acting on complaints by workers, submitted a formal letter of protest to the Registrar.

“… the workers have been asked to deposit a ransom of Rs. 1,000/- (One thousand rupees) to continue work on the earlier posts,” the letter stated.

Furthermore, the letter alleged that the process was done without the workers being provided receipts to show that such a transaction had taken place.

“They were refusing to provide the workers with any receipt. When we took the situation up with the authorities through a demonstration, they said that they were charging the said amount to process documents, which every company does and it was a small amount. However, initially, they had asked for Rs 5,000,” said Surya Prakash, a leader of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions, Delhi.

AT THE CENTRE OF ALLEGATIONS: The office of the firm at Lajpat Nagar, where the window is plastered with multiple newspapers

The letter was submitted by the AICCTU’s JNU wing of All India General Kamgar Unit (AIGKU), the union of contractual workers at the university, the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU), the JNU Teacher’s Association (JNUTA), and the JNU Staff Association.

Shahid Alam (name changed), a contractual worker attached to the electrical department, had fallen prey to the incendiary tactics used by the company.

“I thought I would lose my job if I did not give them the money. Every day we were being pressured by the company as well as the administration to pay the thousand rupees if we wanted to keep our jobs,” he said. According to him, all the workers, including him, who fell under the Lajpat Nagar-based company, had to visit their office to fill up their paperwork.

“Many of the workers complained that they were not permitted to see the contents of the documents that they were signing, accusing the tendered company of flicking through the pages as fast as possible to not permit them to see what they were signing up for,” said Moushumi Basu, the President of the JNUTA.

Another worker, on the condition of anonymity, corroborated that initially, they were asked for Rs 5,000, which they gradually decreased to Rs 1,000 following demonstrations.

“However, they kept spreading the terror of loss of jobs if we did not sign up. Even the Staff Association had started warning us. So, many of us ceded and paid them for our jobs,” he said.

A senior employee with MS Vigilant Security Placement & Detective Services, who had been to the campus for site visit before the tendering process began, confirmed that the transaction had taken place without receipt.

However, Narinder Singh Negi, one of the directors of the company, refuted this and said that he was not aware of any such activity.

The particular tender has not been listed under the classified contracts of Moreover, according to the unions, they have not been provided access to the tender either.

However, according to the university’s Deputy Registrar, Gagan Bains, the process for the tendering was followed as per the protocol and was updated online.

He further stated that the tender had been listed under “E-Tender for engagement of security agency to provide round-the-clock integrated security solutions”.

However, the listed tender has not been updated since it went open for evaluation, during the time of writing the report.

On the other hand, Bains stated, “The moment we got to know about the company charging the contractual employees Rs 1000, violating labour laws, we took cognisance of it and warned them.”

Regarding the 270 workers who had already paid, the varsity’s Deputy Registrar said that he has not been made aware of it.

The tendering for the mess has also been given to another placement agency. However, since it falls under the Inter Hall Administration (IHA) of the university, the contractual workers were asked to fill up and file their documents inside the campus itself.