Watch: FCI workers protest Modi govt’s push to handover godowns to private contractors

While the previous UPA govt had vowed to abolish the contractor system, the Modi govt has been hell-bent on roping in pvt players in FCI. Only 100 of 426 FCI godowns are directly managed by the PSU

NH Photo
NH Photo

Dhairya Maheshwari

Hundreds of low-wage labourers working in the warehouses of Food Corporation of India (FCI) staged a massive demonstration outside the FCI headquarters on Monday to protest Centre’s ongoing push to handover operations of the food godowns to private contractors.

“Out of 426 FCI godowns in the country, 326 are being managed by private contractors. The workers in these warehouses are not getting any fixed pay, which could be as low as 50 paise for every sack loaded/unloaded,” said Madan Singh, the joint secretary of the Food Corporation of India Handling-Workers Union.

The private players who subcontract the FCI depots buy their tenders at the rate of ₹4-6 per sack. The government pays for every other operational cost but the labour wages, which is the responsibility of the contractors, it has been learnt.

“To maximise their profits, these players underpay and exploit the poor workers,” said Singh.

“Those working in the FCI godowns, on the other hand, are entitled to a fixed wage of ₹600 a day,” added Singh.

The protest leaders further accused the government of revising its own policies to benefit the private players.“Between 1989 and 2011, the Union Labour Ministry had made it clear that all the workers in the FCI godowns should be on the regular payroll of the FCI. However, over the last two years, the government has gone back on its commitment and issued two orders allowing the privatisation push to continue,” he said.

“The first circular from the Labour Ministry allowing the involvement of private contractors was issued on July 5, 2016. Then, on June 26, 2018, the government renewed the exemption through another circular,” complained the protestors.

“They are just reversing the policies of the previous government, which had wanted the contractor system to be completely abolished,” he said.

The protestors in Monday’s demonstration came from various states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Mizoram, Nagaland, Assam and Bihar among others.

The protestors say that their demands to the government and their FCI bosses haven’t been heeded to as yet, with threats of mass sackings being the generic response from the management of the FCI, one of the largest Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) of the country with a worker strength of over 40,000.

“In the letter sent by the FCI to us on October 25, a very threatening language has been used for adopting a very casual attitude towards the burning problems of the food handling workers, as a result of which workers have become very restive,” said Dr Lakshman Singh, the General Secretary of the FCI workers union.

Currently, the FCI has four systems under which it employs workers. Besides the contractor system, there is a no-work-no-payment system, the departmental system and the direct payment system (on FCI’s payroll in government records).

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Published: 18 Dec 2018, 5:53 PM