Tura, Sep 27: One of the premier universities of the North East, the North Eastern Hill University (NEHU), has continued denying its employees, some of who have spent close to 30 years in office, their rightful dues despite the Supreme Court’s order for ‘equal pay for equal work’ coming as far back as 1988.
Employees of NEHU Tura Campus who are currently on protest mode today shared their plight over the situation and how despite their repeated pleas for economic justice, the University has continued to turn a deaf ear.
As per sources, at least 200 workers in the NEHU Tura campus as well as hundreds in Shillong have struggled through the meager salaries being provided as casual workers instead of regular employees. NEHU, despite the requirements, has not created posts to accommodate these employees thereby continually denying them their due.
The latest round of protests, which began yesterday, Sep 26, was that of black badge. This will progress in the coming days to a pen down as well as postering. The protest for the right to ‘equal pay for equal work’ began earnestly in NEHU in 2019 and despite repeated reminders by the ‘casual’ employees to NEHU authorities, there has been literally no change.
What is even more interesting is the fact that NEHU was earlier paying daily wage rates to these same casual employees, some of whom were only getting paid about Rs 4000 a month. In contrast, a labourer gets paid higher for unskilled work than skilled workers in NEHU.
This only changed in 2019 when the wages were increased after directions once again from the Supreme Court. This was due to changes in the amounts payable for skilled and unskilled labour by the Court.
“We have been continuing this protest for what we are due to be given by the University based on the order of the Supreme Court, way back in 1988. In fact even the University itself had resolved to implement the same in 1989 from which some employees benefitted. However despite the resolution by the University, we are still being denied our dues. We are demanding that the changes be made with immediate effect,” informed the employees’ association president, Tangseng G Momin.
Momin added that NEHU has been intentionally dragging its feet on the issue with the matter being referred to a committee whereas all it needed to do was comply with the order of the Apex Court.
“I have been working in NEHU for over 20 years. The salary being given to me is extremely hard to get by at this time as I have 5 children and a family to take care of. Our demand has been to allow us to be paid as per the work we do. We just want equal pay for equal work,” said Mebarson Sangma, a peon with NEHU.
For Manju Roy, the situation is even direr. She is guardian less and has a sick younger sister to tend to at home.
“I joined in 2015 and for me personally it’s extremely difficult to manage expenses on the salary of a casual worker. We have not been given a positive response despite so many memos, resolutions and talks. We just want to get our rightful due for the work we are doing,” recounted Manju who works as an LDC in the campus.
Mary Rabha, another ‘casual worker’ with NEHU had similar problems over the denial of her rightful salary and felt the situation had to change. She too works as an LDC.
A total of 25 such employees of the NEHU Tura campus were a part of the protest with over 200 others in the sidelines also in a similar situation.
Two of the casual employees who spoke of their plight are also among the land donors to the NEHU campus in Chasingre.
“Ours is a full-time job and we come and work from 9 AM to 5 PM. The work we do is the same as would have been done by a normal employee. We are showing our resentment at being denied our rightful dues through the protest,” added Nighty Sengse K Marak.
When contacted on the issue faced by the employees, newly appointed PVC, Sujatha Gurudev explained that the matter was already being worked out.
“This is a long pending demand and I have spoken to the employees. In fact I have endorsed their demands and sent to the VC recommending it. The employees too had a fruitful discussion on the issue with the VC when he came recently to the campus. It has been positive and we are hopeful that the matter of the employees will be resolved soon. The matter is being worked out by the committee created to look into the matter,” said the PVC.