After Anganwadi workers, three more unions protest in Vijayawada; pressure mounts on YSRCP

As elections draw near, three unions — sanitation workers, Samagra Shiksha employees, and government-aided college teachers — demand implementation of YS Jagan's padayatra promises.

ByBhaskar Basava

Published Dec 29, 2023 | 11:43 AMUpdatedDec 29, 2023 | 1:11 PM

Anganwadi workers and other unions protesting at Dharna Chowk in Vijayawada. (South First)

In the heart of Andhra Pradesh, Vijayawada, the Dharna Chowk is full, as at least three more unions have begun their protests — now occupying the same space as the Anganwadi workers’ protest.

South First had earlier visited the same site to report on the Anganwadi workers protesting in the state for a salary hike and the release of gratuity as per the Supreme Court guidelines. Click here to read

The reason sanitation workers, Samagra Shiksha employees, and government-aided college faculty have joined the protest, as South First unearths on the ground, is the non-implementation of promises made by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Reddy during his Praja Sankalpa Padayatra (2017-2019) as an Opposition leader.

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Sanitation workers’ protest

Just a few metres away from the Anganwadi protests, over 150-200 sanitation workers are protesting, as called for by their workers’ union from Tuesday, 26 December.

Their unanimous demand across all sections within the municipality department is for implementing the promise of “equal pay for equal work”.

They are also holding Chief Minister Jagan to a promise made — during the padayatra — that he would regularise their employment status.

Sanitation workers protesting in Vijayawada.

Sanitation workers protesting in Vijayawada. (South First)

“Typically, a group of 10 members in a self-help group used to get the contract from the government. However, post-2019, the YSRCP government, which promised a salary hike and regulation of employment status to permanent within six months of coming to power, has now launched the Andhra Pradesh Corporation for Outsourced Services (APCOS), making contract employees subject to outsourcing,” Nakka Dhanalakshmi, a sanitation worker, tells South First.

With this protest move by various municipality workers, water supply services, electricity, park, and highway maintenance, garbage collection, and drainage works are all affected.

While talking to South First, Chinna Tegella, a worker in the parks and cleaning section, says, “Be it anyone from the political party or from the government, it is we who clean and make it beautiful. And what is left for us is debts, overwork, health problems, and no recognition for our work.”

Tegella recalls with his colleagues that during the recent visit of President Droupadi Murmu to Andhra Pradesh, they were made to work for more than 14 hours, and neither food nor even water bottle was supplied by the government officials.

Nimmala Narendra, who works in the drainage section, tells South First, “We have only been provided a single mask, two gloves, and a pair of shoes, along with a radium jacket. Not a single extra piece is provided; a mask barely lasts for a day. The rest of it will last for a maximum of four to five months; many of us end up buying new ones from our own pockets.”

A drainage section worker shows the two masks and questions the govt over one mask per year.

A drainage section worker shows the two masks and questions the government over one mask per year. (South First)

When asked if there are any machines installed for drainage cleaning, he claims that not even an oxygen cylinder is provided while cleaning the mess and recalls a colleague’s death due to lack of oxygen while cleaning the drainage a few months ago.

Electricity department workers also pipe in. They say that while they have four holidays every month, instead of acquiring the holidays, they end up working day and night.

Srinivas Rao, an electricity service staff, tells South First, “All the municipality workers are on an outsourcing basis; we all get salaries ranging from ₹13,000 to ₹19,000 in hand. But the sad part is that we are all excluded from the welfare schemes of the state government, as we are considered ineligible while applying online due to our government salaries of ₹13,000.”

While the municipality workers are demanding a basic salary of minimum ₹26,000, regularisation of employment, and proper safety kits, there are approximately 50 other workers who are protesting beside the Anganwadis.

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Samagra Shiksha employees’ protest

Samagra Shiksha began as an initiative in 2005 as part of the Rajiv Gandhi Vidya Mission. It was in 2012 when employees were recruited for the cluster resource programme and Mandal information centre through the district selection committees.

“The Samagra Shiksha scheme is an integrated scheme for school education covering the entire gamut from pre-school to class XII,” as defined by the Ministry of Education, Government of India.

“Barely started with ₹700 salary, the workers are now getting around ₹23,000 because of regular increases under various governments. However, our employment status remains contractual. We don’t get any Human Resource benefits like the Education Department workers, even though we work on par with them,” union members echo to South First.

Samagra siksha employees protesting besides Anganwadis protest site.

Samagra Shiksha employees protesting beside the Anganwadis protest. (South First)

“It was in Chandrababu Naidu’s tenure that YS Jagan stood for us and questioned Naidu for not regularising the employment status. But, in a U-turn, now Jagan is silent over his promise,” says union member Bokka Vijaya Babu.

It is the Samagra Shiksha employees who play a key role in implementing YS Jagan’s prestigious educational projects, right from distribution to data. However, they have nothing to show for it — not even salaries on time.

Their protest began on Wednesday, 20 December.

“We met everyone in the government and heard no response from them. With no choice left, our employees have joined the protest,” Babu adds.

N Spandana, a Samagra Shiksha operator, tells South First her story. Fearing she would lose her job as there was no maternity leave then, Spandana had to report to the office just nine day after giving birth to her baby girl.

Now, half happy with the maternity leave being sanctioned to women since 2019, she is still unhappy over uncertainty of the job.

The only thing she wishes for, along with her union workers, is that the government will heed to their demands as they are reasonable and justified.

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Aided college faculty protest

Government-aided colleges are educational institutions owned by private management, yet they received funds from the government and follow the same rules and regulations as government colleges. Approximately 10,000 faculty members — with postgraduate degrees, NET, and some pursuing PhDs — have been working in these colleges for the past 15 years in the state.

Their main concern is that, despite having similar roles as other faculty members, their salaries range from ₹5,000-₹10,000. These faculty members were recruited through a high-level, three-member committee for teaching positions.

Aided college faculty members protesting. (South First)

Aided college faculty members protesting. (South First)

“In 2018, we met with then-chief minister Chandrababu Naidu and were insulted when the former chief minister warned of shutting down the colleges if we pressed for a salary hike. Later, in the same year, during YS Jagan’s padayatra, we met him and he expressed empathy for our struggles, even wrote about our demands in his padayatra book,” state union president for aided college faculty, Ariga Joshi tells South First.

However, with the government not fulfilling its promises and only three months to go for the Assembly elections, now the faculty members are resorting to protests. They are demanding a minimum pay scale and regularisation of their employment.

Their protest began on Wednesday, 27 December.

Simultaneously, Anganwadi workers, now on their 17th day of protest, continue demonstrating under the hot sun, even after their tents were allegedly removed by the police during their detention while attempting to give petitions to the MLAs by visiting to their residence.