An IPS officer with a mission takes IIT Kanpur to court
How many of us spare a thought for the countless labourers or workers we see all around us even if we are aware that they are being exploited and denied their due rights under the labour laws? Not many, of course. So when a police officer, along with a group of like-minded people, files a writ petition in court citing violation of labour laws at his alma mater, IIT Kanpur, it becomes a historic act.
“Though it’s a common knowledge that labour laws are blatantly flouted in our country, the alumni of IIT K have taken the lead to ensure implementation of labour laws in letter and spirit in the premier institute,” says Amitabh Thakur, a 1992 batch IPS officer of UP cadre.
One vision: Amitabh and Nutan are currently writing a book on RTI martyrs
“We hope to get suitable guidelines from the High Court which shall later be extended to other places as well,” adds the 42-year-old Thakur.
In the writ petition filed in the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court early this month, the petitioners have sought a court direction to the contractors to implement labour laws and provide the contract labourers their due.
Besides Amitabh, the other petitioners include Shailendra Singh, Professor at IIM Lucknow, K C Joshi, renowned Mathematics teacher, Bridge player Shantanu Rastogi, Railway officer Prithul Gupta, Defence Account officer D K Rai and Physics teacher Shaalu Rai. Ashok Pandey is the counsel for the petitioners.
The electronic petition initiated for the purpose, ‘Stop violating contract workers’ rights in IIT K’, has got the support of 1316 ex IITians. The petition says that the first evidence citing violation of labour laws at IIT K was submitted by the assistant labour commissioner of Kanpur to the Regional Labour Commissioner (Central) Kanpur, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India in 2009.
It was found that labour laws had been flouted in many cases. Some workers were paid fewer wages than assigned by the Government, basic facilities like first aid box, toilets, urinals, and access to safe drinking water were missing. It was also found that there were gross anomalies in granting of wage slips and employment cards. The maintenance of registers and records were not maintained as required by the Minimum Wages Act 1948 and Contract Labour Act 1970.
The petitioners say that the worst offenders are the construction contractors at IIT K. Moreover in cases of accidents and deaths, not all workers were compensated as per the Workmen Compensation Act.
"There should not be injustice at lower level, these people have no voice and are not organised. Everyone should be concerned about the welfare of these workers. The workers should be given their due,” says IIM Lucknow professor Shilendra Singh, one of the other petitioners.
The petitioners have requested for the creation of a monitoring committee consisting of IIT Kanpur Alumni and Professors, labourers and labour department officials. “There should be certain definite procedures and roles assigned to this monitoring committee,” says Thakur, who studied mechanical engineering at IIT K.
Brought up in the hinterland of Bihar, the native of Sitamarhi, dons several hats - a poet, writer, columnist, social worker, besides his police job. Currently on a study leave doing a course in Human Resource management in IIM Lucknow, Thakur has worked in several small towns of UP as a Superintendent of Police and departments like Intelligence, Vigilance, Anti-Corruption and Police Training Academy.
His wife, Dr Nutan Thakur, a social activist and Editor of a Hindi Daily, shares his passion and the couple is currently penning a book on RTI martyrs. Thakur has co-authored books in the past too – balancing his academic pursuit and work for the society with élan.