The lives of city’s gardeners not a bed of roses

- March 7, 2024
| By : Idrees Bukhtiyar |

Workers at the Rose Garden, Nehru Park and Tulip Garden, which are located in Lutyens’ Delhi, say they are leading a hard life with low income besides dealing with the lack of toilets and shelters

CONTRAST: While the India-Africa Friendship Rose Garden on Shanti Path at Chanakyapuri is attractive and well-maintained, those behind its upkeep are not well-paid

At the India-Africa Friendship Rose Garden, Shanti Path in Chanakyapuri, 50-year-old Inderpal Singh is busy removing weeds and debris from the rose-bed in the garden to keep the blooming flowers alive. His future also hinges on the health of the flowers.

He is one of the 80-plus gardeners working daily in the Rose Garden and in the neighbouring Nehru Park and Tulip Garden. They all say they are facing problems and expect the authorities to intervene and help them.

“I have been working here since 2006 and was regularised by the government in 2016. But we are still without many benefits and facilities that we deserve,” said Singh to Patriot on the sidelines of the ‘Rose Festival’ organised by the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) from 2 to 7 March at the India- Africa Friendship Rose Garden.

He emphasised that they are getting an insufficient salary of Rs 27,000 which is not enough to run their daily chores.

“I come from Ghaziabad every day. I leave home at 5 am and then reach Delhi by 9 am. I leave by 5 pm and reach home at 9 pm. One can imagine how much we are struggling daily. Most of my salary goes into travelling and I am unable to save a single penny,” complained Singh, who hails from Hapur near Ghaziabad.

“We have been demanding an increase in salary because we all are very poor people and Rs 27,000 is not enough to run and feed our families. The salary should be hiked to Rs 40,000. There is no pension in our case. We are worried about what will happen to us after retirement,” Singh highlighted.

Raju, another gardener from Rajasthan, is concerned about their safety during rainy days.

“Believe me, things get worse when there is rain. We don’t have any shelter available, especially on the Shanti Path stretch. We get completely wet on rainy days. If a shelter is built, we can sit inside and have our meals comfortably. We can also keep our tools there. We have to do it in open air without it,” he said.

Raju also pointed at the lack of toilet facility in the garden or even nearby. “We have to go to Nehru Park on foot to use the facility, which is one kilometre away.”

He also pitched his voice for an increase in salary and a demand for a pension.

“I have been living in Sanjay Camp in Delhi on rent and we are paying more than Rs 5,000 per month. Besides the rent, there are other daily expenses too. Those who were regularised in 1997 are getting their pensions but we have been neglected,” he lamented.

“I leave home at 7 am and reach the location at 9 am on a bus. I am the lone breadwinner in my family. I have a wife and two daughters at home. Both children are studying at primary level. I have responsibilities at home and garden also. We expect some support from the government because things are not going well on such a low salary. We request the government to build some residential space for us in Delhi which would be affordable to all the gardeners,” said Shiv Shankar, a gardener who is a native of Uttar Pradesh but is currently living in Dakshinpuri, Delhi, on rent.

Sita Ram, 50, hailing from Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar complained that they don’t get any government benefit other than the salary credited to their accounts.

“We have been giving blood and sweat to maintain and build these gardens for years but in return, we haven’t got any recognition from the government in all these years,” he said.

EXPOSED: There is no shelter in the Rose Garden for workers to hide in rain, nor is there any toilet

“Every year, New Delhi Municipal Corporation says that they will felicitate the labourers but nothing much happens for us,” he added.

Another gardener, not wishing to be named, complained, “Most of the gardeners have been regularised in the last one year. We had been demanding regularisation since 2006, but this was done only when the G20 meeting was scheduled for New Delhi. This was done to keep the international delegates and ambassadors happy and show them how we are generating employment for the poor people in India,” he said.

Deepak Kumar, another gardener, said, “Our government talks much about the beautification of Delhi and planting of flowers but they should also listen and address the woes of those behind making these gardens.”

It is pertinent to mention here that 75 varieties of roses were displayed for the public this year.

Patriot spoke to an official of the NDMC about the complaints of the gardeners.

“Increase in salary and pension is something that would be decided by the government as it comes under policy-making. We can’t take a call on it,” the official said.

“Since it is a VVIP area, building a toilet facility and shelter shed there is not possible,” he added.