New Delhi: The Central Advisory Contract Labour Board has urged the Ministry of Labour and Employment to abolish contractual labour in ticketing jobs at Delhi Metro and make the posts permanent. If the ministry accepts this recommendation, it will benefit nearly 3,500 contractual workers.
The advisory board constituted a committee to look into the issue and passed its recommendations to the ministry last month. Based on the findings of the committee, it decided to “recommend for abolition of the contract labour system in the jobs of TOM (token operating metro) operators in the establishment of DMRC”.
After several inspections, the committee found there was a phenomenal rise in the number of ticket operators over the years and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) was justifying the employment on a short-term contractual basis by promising that it was working towards reducing dependence on manual ticketing and mechanising the process completely.
“It is evident the semi-automated system of fare collection is continuing… and the phasing out of it by installing TVMs (token vending machines) is far from reality… The installation and operation of TVMs during the last 13 years has not been able to substitute the requirement of TOM/CCC (customer care centres),” the committee said in its report.
The committee also noted that as a result of employing staff on a contractual basis for work that was essential and “perennial” to the daily functioning of Metro services, there was increased scope for exploitation, especially arbitrary hiring and firing policies, as per DMRC’s contract agreement.
The committee noted outsourcing of ticket vending system through contractors on the basis of four-hour shifts was compelling the contractors to engage a large number of people, which in turn created scope for exploitation of workmen by denying them wages and welfare facilities available to regular staff.
The advisory board set up up the committee on a complaint by Rajni Saxena, a contractual ticket operator who was sacked along with 3,500 others by DMRC in 2012 after four years of service.
Saxena, now a homemaker, said, “Our contractor had been siphoning off crores, paying us only half of the mandated minimum wages and stealing parts of our salaries on the pretext of providing us health benefits, but it was never deposited. When I complained to government authorities, the DMRC terminated its contract with our contractor to wash its hand of the labour law violations our contractor was committing.”
She added, “I was one of the hundreds fired without notice. That is when I decided to take up the matter with higher authorities, requesting them to abolish the system of contractual labour in ticketing in the DMRC.”
The DMRC has over the years terminated contracts of three companies, laying off thousands of workers. At present, the DMRC has contractual ticket operators through two other private companies.
U Bhupati, who was chairman of the Central Advisory Contract Labour Board till March 31, said, “The recommendations of the board are advisory in nature. They become binding on the DMRC only after the ministry approves them. The ministry can return the recommendations for reconsideration if it wants.”
A senior official at the labour ministry told Media, “The Board has made recommendations, however, we have not yet received them.”
A DMRC spokesperson said, “We will take action and put the reforms in place only after the ministry issues a notification to this effect. As of now, operations and hiring policies continue as before.”