Farmers, teachers, health workers join protest

Ever since the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi Government took over the reins at Delhi Secretariat, the address for the Capital’s “designated free speech zone” seems to have shifted from Central Delhi’s Jantar Mantar to outside the gates of the government’s head office.

Dominant among the demonstrators were groups of contractual workers who were there to pull up the Aam Aadmi Party government on promises made in its election manifesto.

While the government itself experimented with a Janata Durbar over the weekend, a mixed crowd comprising farmers, teachers and health workers were seen demonstrating outside the Secretariat on Wednesday vying for the Chief Minister’s attention.

In its election manifesto, the AAP had promised that “no contractual jobs for work that is required 365 days a year and ensuring implementation of minimum wages”.

Samikha Jain (24), who was one of over 10,000 “contract and guest teachers” working in Delhi Government schools, questioned “why the government had not done its homework” before proposing to provide permanent employment to contractual workers.

“In their manifesto, they promised to regularise contractual work . How can they ask for more time now?” said this teacher who works at a school in Meet Nagar.

Her colleague Aarti Rana said the group had met with Education Minister Manish Sisodia and Mr. Kejriwal, and both had asked for “more time” to look into the issue.

Ten metres away, Jaiveer Dahiya, who works as a lab technician under the National Rural Health Mission, held onto a banner asking for Mr. Kejriwal to make his job on par with similar positions under the Delhi Government.

“We are told that we neither come under the Union government nor the Delhi Government. Salaries have not been revised for years and all we ask for is that our pay scales be brought on par with what the Delhi Government offers,” he said.

“We voted for them [AAP] in the Delhi elections and now we have to stand here asking for them to pay us some attention,” he added.

Around him, his colleagues discussed the contingent that had landed from the farmers’ association earlier in the day, asking that their land be returned to them in different parts of the city.

“I am not sure if they managed to meet Mr. Kejriwal, but we plan to stay here till he meets us,” said Priyanka Balayan.

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