The alumni of NLU Delhi have come out in support of the ongoing student protests against alleged unlawful termination of the housekeeping staff of the University.
"It has come to our notice that the University unduly terminated the employment of the workers who have since the inception of the University taken care of the students and the campus.
We demand that the University provide a cogent explanation to the significant decrease in the number of the workforce that it has now employed. Is the University administration suggesting that previously it was overstaffed? Or has the campus suddenly shrunk in size? Or does the University intend to overburden the 30 employees it has hired in contrast to the 55 workers who were previously working on campus? We wish to reiterate that the contract of such nature is void ab initio as it does not qualify the basic requirements of labour laws," the statement signed by around 40 alumni read.
The University is alleged to have terminated the employment contract of 55 housekeeping workers, without any prior notice to them or to the contractor, White Fox. Further, it is alleged to have finalized the tender for appointment of new staff in favour of Rajendra Management Group (RMG), without assessing the manpower requirement; as mandated by a notification issued by the Delhi government.
Following student demands, a meeting was held on December 30 in the presence of Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Registrar, Assistant Registrar/Chief Security Officer, Section Officer, an official who had worked with the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General previously, a representative from RMG and student representatives, to discuss the retention of the workers.
The alumni have expressed strong dissatisfaction over not allowing the workers to participate in the negotiation meeting despite explicit demands.
"The workers were not served a notice of such termination, but were just denied entry into the campus. The White Fox contractors were themselves not intimated about the termination of the contract in a lawful manner. Further despite the workers having explicitly demanded that they be allowed to participate in the negotiation meeting held by the University administration on 30th December, 2019, they were disallowed from participating in this meeting," they said.
The alumni have also condemned the use of foreign force to curb the dissenting voices on campus.
"We learnt the values of upholding Constitutional rights and carrying out Constitutional duties in NLU Delhi and it is most heart breaking that the University has not only denied to the workers their constitutional rights under Articles 15, 19, and 21 but is also threatening the students and workers by employing intimidating and repressive tactic of arbitrarily invoking Section 144 CrPC outside it's premises to silence them further. Bringing in police personnel to create an atmosphere of fear and threatening the protesting workers and students with arrest and FIRs is not what this University stands for," the statement read.
On Sunday morning, the student protestors along with workers gathered at the Main Gate of the University to peacefully express their anguish over the matter. However, the gathering was forced to disperse, after they were warned by certain Police personnel that more force would be deployed if they continued the agitation.
"We are to believe that we are familiar with most of these terminated workers. Several of these workers are women, differently-abled, sole breadwinners and belong to extremely marginalised sections of the society. The apathy of the University administration to the everyday struggles of these workers and the reckless disregard being demonstrated to the consequence of such mass termination is alarming.
These are the workers who have cleaned our toilets, our hostels, our corridors, our classrooms and have helped create this beautiful campus we all take pride in. They have helped in organising events in the University, have worked in faculty houses and have tirelessly worked to make each and every person in the University comfortable. These workers have in the discharge of such labour, provided care to us, and several of us have developed strong bonds with them.
NLU Delhi taught us the values of social lawyering, and made us recognise the strength of our voices. It was here that we grew as lawyers, academicians, researchers, activists and writers. Several of us were part of the earlier batches of the University and we have contributed to it, derived from it, and watched it grow to become this premier institution that we love and revere. We refuse to stand silent while the University tramples on the rights of those that we hold dear. We will not let the University become something that it taught us specifically not to become.
We demand full reinstatement of all the workers as permanent workers and an immediate revocation of Section 144 IPC from the area outside the University," the statement read.