SC Directs J&K Govt To Clear Wage Arrears Of Sweepers

Supreme Court Of India | File Photo

Srinagar- In a significant step that has brought relief to daily wagers, the Supreme Court last month had directed the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to clear the arrears of minimum wage of sweepers, who have been sustaining on meager monthly wages, in 8 weeks.

The apex court’s divisional bench comprising Justices BR Gavai and AS Bopanna had also directed the erstwhile state for disbursement of the monthly wages to the sweepers from the month of May, 2022, a web portal, reported.

Pertinently, the apex Court’s directions came while considering SLP assailing Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s order of 2019 by which it “while refusing to entertain the LPA had observed that the same was an abuse of the process of law.”

The bench in its significant judgment had also noted that “despite repeated directions the sweepers continued to be paid meager wages of INR 100 per month”.

Notably, in November 2021 Kashmir Observer had reported that the Jammu & Kashmir administration had sought details of the unskilled workers along with financial implication for the implementation of much awaited Minimum Wages Act, 1948.

In an order, the Health & Medical Education Department directed the seven listed heads of various departments “to furnish the details of the unskilled workers along with financial implications for the implementation of Minimum Wages Act,1948”.

Addressing the order, the Under Secretary to the Government, Javaid Ahmad Malik asked the seven entities to treat the matter as “Most Urgent” and directed them to furnish the demanded details of unskilled workers (part-time workers/consolidated safaiwallas/helpers) within a week’s time.

“So, that the matter may be taken up with the Finance Department for their competition.” reads the order, a copy of which lies with Kashmir Observer.

Pertinently, the order had come into action three days after Kashmir Observer had highlighted the issue in its weekly Inkishaf program titled, “Covid Warriors or Bonded Laborers?”

The report highlighted how J&K government was violating its own Minimum Wages Act, 1948 that provides a minimum wage to the laborers working in the organized sector and bars their exploitation. The report had also highlighted how the J&K Government was paying a monthly wage of Rs 200 per month to the unskilled workers.

Notably, in 2017, the labor and employment department of the J&K government had issued an SRO-460 which clearly notified that the monthly wages of the unskilled workers should not be less than 6,750 per month.

It is pertinent to mention here that the sweepers who have been working in the sub-centres, primary health centers (PHCs), sub-district hospitals (SDHs), and district hospitals in almost all the districts of J&K, particularly in the Valley, have had the same fate where the minimum wages per month were not more than Rs 300.

In 2016, the Health Department, civil secretariat [Communication No: HD/NG/06/2011 dated 4 August 2016] recommended a hike in the wages of the consolidated health workers.

Workers being paid Rs. 100 were supposed to get Rs. 500 per month and those who were paid Rs. 500 a month were recommended wages of Rs.1,000 per month and a wage of Rs. 1,500 was fixed for the workers who were already being paid Rs. 1,000 a month. The maximum wages were fixed at Rs. 3,000 a month, which would be paid to only a handful of drivers.

However, the increase till now hasn’t been implemented by the government, except for a handful of drivers who now receive a salary of Rs.3000 per month.

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Zaid Bin Shabir

Zaid Bin Shabir is a special correspondent at Kashmir Observer. He tweets @Zaidbinshabir

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