Rahi Gaikwad

Despite court orders, the Maharashtra government yet to regularise services

Mumbai: An indefinite fast did not help their cause. They wonder what will. Around 1,000 “ad hoc workers” in the Maharashtra government-run hospitals have been working since 1981 in this temporary category, equivalent to class IV. Despite court orders to regularise their services as per seniority, the State has been dragging its feet.

For two decades, Sandeep Yerunkar, 40, has been working on an ad hoc basis or as a badli kamgar in the government-run J.J. Hospital. “After 29 days of work we are given a break so that we are not eligible for being inducted into service. We do eight-hour shifts just like permanent employees. Ours is an essential service. Why is the government not thinking of us,” he asks.

“It is a wide-ranging issue. [If these workers are regularised] it may set a precedent [for ad hoc workers across the State from other departments]. This decision cannot be taken in isolation. It has to happen at the government level,” Milind Mhaiskar, Secretary, Medical Education and Drugs department, Government of Maharashtra, told The Hindu. He said the workers were not entitled to pension “as they have no legal claim on the service.”

According to Mr. Mhaiskar, there are 1,200 vacancies in the class IV category in his department. Of the 8,000 class IV workers in the 14 government hospitals under the Medical Education department, 1,000 are on ad hoc basis. This is true of other departments too. The ad hoc workforce is not confined to his department alone, but forms part of establishments and institutions run by other government departments. Thus there exists a much larger tribe of these temporary employees working without service benefits and having no unionised voice.

As Krushna Kshirsagar, who's been at Mumbai's Cama hospital for 14 years as an ad hoc worker, pointed out, “If the permanent employee does not turn up, we have to fill in for him or her and do twice the amount of work. We have no national holidays and no benefits. The Sixth Pay Commission does not apply to us. No one is raising this issue in the Cabinet.”

Court order

Favourable court orders have been ignored, workers rued. In 2003, the industrial court, Mumbai, ordered, “It is hereby declared that the respondent [J.J. Hospital] has engaged in unfair labour practices under item 6 of Schedule IV of the Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act. The respondent is directed to consider the badli workers shown in the seniority list filed by the respondent…as per their seniority and considering their suitability for the post, make them permanent in proportion to the vacant permanent post [sic] and the other conditions of service and rules of service.”

All that the workers want is for the government to follow court orders. “We have stayed in the ambit of law. We organised many andolans and fasts, including one unto death in 2004. A number of secretaries, deans and Ministers have come and gone; we have tracked the movement of files in the State secretariat, but our file never comes up for discussion. We just want the orders on service regularisation implemented,” says Satywan Sawant, 41, an ad hoc worker for 11 years.