MES Engineer Arrested By CBI On Corruption Charges, AIDEF Raises Questions On Present System

Contract and outsourcing is the breeding ground of corruption and exploitation, opines C. Srikumar, General Secretary, AIDEF


Recently, certain sections of the media has flashed a Breaking News about the arrest of an Assistant Garrison Engineer of Military Engineering Services at Barmer, near Jodhpur, on charges that the accused officer has kept the ATM Card of the complainant who is a contract worker and that he is demanding Rs. 8100/- out of his salary of Rs. 19,100 as a bribe from the complainant for continuing his labour job without any hindrance. Since the complainant did not want to pay he bribe, he made a complaint to the CBI to take action against the concerned officer.

The CBI recorded the conversation held between the complainant and the suspected officer which clearly indicates that the officer has demanded and agreed to accept illegal gratification of Rs.8000/- for him from the complainant. Accordingly, the CBI arrested the accused officer. Since this episode has taken place in a Defence Unit, contacted C. Srikumar, General Secretary, AIDEF, to find out his reaction on this serious corruption matter. The statement of C. Srikumar is given here for the benefit of our viewers.

Contract and Outsourcing in Government Departments have become a major breeding ground for corruption and exploitation. This menace has been brought to the notice of the government several times by the AIDEF and we have been demanding to the Ministry of Defence for stopping contract and outsourcing in the permanent and perennial jobs in the government. Government should be a model and good employer. There is a proposal to abolish more than 40000 civilian posts in the Army, Navy and Air
Force and recruitment in these posts are completely banned. In the Defence Ministry alone almost 3 lakh civilian posts are lying vacant.

Since manpower is getting reduced every month due to retirement, death and other wastages, the work gets badly affected and the authorities are given power to contract out those jobs. Accordingly, contract is given to various contractors for supply of the required manpower and here the corruption begins. Even though there is a Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act 1970, passed by the Parliament, the provisions of this Act are blatantly violated. This Act it self is to regulate the employment of contract Labour in certain establishments and to provide for its abolition in certain circumstances and for matters connected therewith according to the Act the principle employer must ensure the disbursement of wages through contractor within the expiry period by nominating his representative. If the contractor fails to make the payment of wages the principal employer shall be liable to make the payment. So far, we are receiving complaints from our unions that the contractor keeps the ATM Card of the Contract Workers and withdraw the wages from the ATM take his commission what ever he decides and give the balance amount to the worker.

But now, in the present case, the Government officer himself has demanded bribe directly from the poor worker. Corruption in contractorization has gone to this extend that the Government officer being the representative of the government to protect the interest of the contract worker from the contractor himself has demanded bribe from the wages of the contract worker. Recently, on the 5th of this month AIDEF has lodged a complaint to the Engineer-in-Chief, MES and has brought the following corrupt activities and exploitation to his notice and demanded for remedial action

1) Even though Bank Accounts were opened in the name of the Contract Worker for depositing the monthly salary, the Contractor keeps all the documents including ATM Card and Cheque Book with him only. The Contractor withdraw the full amount of salary through ATM which was kept by them and they take 30 to 40 percent of the amount and give the balance to the employees, in violation of the Minimum Wages Act. The Authorities are aware of this but they support only the Contractors and not the poor workers.

2) EPF and ESIC contributions of the Contract Workers are not regularly deposited subjecting the Contract Workers to all types of harassments and difficulties.

3) Contract Workers are fully utilized for the domestic work of the Offices.

4) Deploying less number of Contract workers than what is given in the Contract, but payment is made for the non deployed Contract workers also.

There are provisions in all the labour laws for punishment including imprisonment and fine for violation of any Rules in the Labour Laws. Unfortunately, nobody bothers about these provisions and the labour department who are entrusted with the responsibility of enforcement of the labour laws also remains as a silent spectator or join hands with the contractor and the authorities against the interest of the exploited contract worker.

Concluding his remarks, C. Srikumar further stated that the Government instead of keeping the Civilian Posts vacant and subsequently abolishing the same and permitting the authorities to out source and contract out the jobs should immediately take steps to fill up all the unfilled vacancies so that the unemployed youth of our country including those from the socially and economically downtrodden communities like OBC, SC and ST etc. will get a decent job and this will end the above corrupt practices and exploitation. After all the contract workers are mainly from the down trodden communities of the society and their poverty and unemployment should not be exploited and especially by the government itself.

Views expressed here are those of C. Srikumar, veteran Trade Union Leader and General Secretary of AIDEF

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