GTA Casual workers threaten agitation over regularization issue

Darjeeling 12 May 2016 Casual workers employed in the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) today threatened to start an agitation next month to pursue their long-pending demand for regularization.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-affiliated Janmukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan (JAKS), today held a ‘pratanidhi sabha’ or a representatives’ meeting and passed a resolution to take up the regularisation issue as also to demand a raise to their salary once the Assembly results are out.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, JAKS general secretary Kishan Gurung said, “We have waited a long time on year after year of government assurances, but nothing concrete has materialised. Our members are frustrated now. We have given the state government a deadline till June of this year to address our demand; otherwise we will take to the streets.”

Today’s meeting was attended by representatives of 42 units, from Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Mirik, Bijanbari and Tukdah. The GTA presently employs 5,300 workers on temporary basis. These workers were earlier employed under the now-defunct Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council on meagre remunerations.

GTA Casual workers threaten agitation over regularization issue
Deepak Sharma and Kisan Gurung – spokesman for the Jamukti Asthai Karmachari Sangathan – a file photo

After a series of agitations between 2008 and 2011, the then state government had assured to employ 2,372 workers on permanent basis, but that promise has failed to see the light of day. “We will write to the new government about our demand and the resolution we passed today,” Gurung said.

The GJM too, has taken up the regularisation issue in many rounds of bipartite and tripartite talks with the state and central governments as the matter finds mention in the GTA agreement and act.

Further, the JAKS wants the state government to include in practicality the group A and B employees under the enhanced pay structure. Presently, the state government has implemented a pay-band structure with a ceiling for the casual workers. In March this year, the state government enhanced the salary of the workers, but only group C and D workers have benefited. “Only C and D group workers’ salaries have increased and not of the A and B grades even though they are included under the enhanced pay structure as per the state government order,” pointed out Machendra Subba, the JAKS president.

After the enhancement, group C and D workers are getting Rs 22,500 and Rs12,000, respectively per month. Prior to that, the amounts were Rs 8,500 and Rs 6,500, respectively. Meantime, engineers, doctors, high school teachers and managers, who come under the A and B groups, get paid anywhere between Rs 13,500 and Rs 26,000.

Another resolution the casual workers discussed and passed was on the interference in the independent functioning of the GTA. The JAKS has demanded changes in the GTA agreement and act to negate unnecessary meddling by the state government on issues already transferred to the GTA so as to ensure its autonomy in the true sense of the word.


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