Here is a classic case that will reveal how the “high-handedness” of a few officials has affected the lives of two Dalit women in Udupi.
The two women, Akku and Leela, have put in about four decades of service at the Government Women Teachers’ Training Institute on a monthly salary of Rs. 15. Although they were promised that their services would be regularised, they did not get any benefits even after 42 years of service.
After the women approached the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal (KAT) seeking relief in 2001, the Education Department stopped paying them even that meagre salary of Rs. 15.
Their plight came to light after Ravindranath Shanbhag, president of Udupi-based Human Rights Protection Foundation, took up the matter and followed up the case right up to the Supreme Court.
Addressing presspersons here on Tuesday, Mr. Shanbhag said that although the Supreme Court, the High Court of Karnataka and the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal ruled in favour of the women and directed the government to regularise their services, the order is yet to be implemented by the government.
Meanwhile, the women continue to clean the 21 toilets in the institute all through the year without any payment, he said.
“The Karnataka Administrative Tribunal asked the government in 2003 to regularise them in 90 days and the Karnataka High Court ordered the government to pay their salaries in 2004. Notices were also issued for contempt of court when the directions were not implemented. Instead of paying them salaries, the government filed a special leave petition before the Supreme Court in 2005.
“The Supreme Court ruled in the women’s favour in 2010. Despite all this, the women are still waiting to get their benefits,” Mr. Shanbhag said. “Now, the authorities say that the women were not employable because they had reached the retirement age. I am surprised that the government spent lakhs of rupees on fighting the cases against the hapless women rather than pay what is due to them.
Is there any other court above the Supreme Court that can give justice to these women?” Mr. Shanbhag asked and urged the government to pay what is due to the women.
In response to several readers' offers of help for Akku and Leela, Ravindranath Shanbhag, the human rights activist who has been campaigning for their cause, says these women do not want any charity. All they want is for the government to pay them their due.