Mangalore, September 11: Two women working as ‘scavengers’ in Udupi for the last 42 years in Udupi are being harassed by the state government, Dr. Ravindranath Shanbhag, President, Human Rights Protection Foundation, Udupi, alleged.
Addressing media persons at Press Club in Mangalore on Tuesday, Mr. Shanbhag said that Akku and Leela have been working as scavengers for last 42 years in Government Women Teachers' Training Institute at Udupi (Karnataka) for a meager basic salary 15/- per month all the way.
From 1971, these two women were repeatedly requesting the higher authorities in the Department of Education to sanction minimum wages given to scavengers /sweepers. In 1999, they approached the Human Rights Protection Foundation, an NGO, for guidance and support. Even after two years of systematic correspondence from the NGO, there was no result. In 2001, they were guided and helped to file a petition with the Karnataka Administrative Tribunal at Bangalore. Soon after filing the case, the Education Department stopped even the meagre salary they have been paying. But the two ladies continued to work without salary in the hope of getting justice from the Law courts. On 25-7-2003, The Karnataka Administrative Tribunal (KAT) ordered for the regularization of services of the complainants in 90 days (copy enclosed). But still, nothing happened for fourteen months in spite of repeated representations from these ladies, Mr. Shanbhag said.
On 6-9-2004, the ladies filed contempt proceedings against the government. Immediately, the education department filed an appeal to the Karnataka High Court against the order of KAT. On 4-10-2004, Karnataka High court dismissed the appeal by the government after hearing and ordered the Government to pay the salaries (copy enclosed). Notices were issued for contempt of courts when salaries were not paid. Instead of paying their salaries, in 2005, Karnataka Govt preferred special leave petition before the Supreme Court of India (SLP No: 533/05) challenging the order of Karnataka High Court. On 22 -1-2010, Supreme Court of India passed the judgment ( Civil Appeal NO: 860-861 of 2010, copy enclosed) directing the Karnataka Government to consider the complainants' claim for regularization of employment with the principles laid down by Constitution Bench in State of Karnataka & others Vs Uma Devi & others.
But the scavengers have not received their wages even after two and a half years of the Supreme Court verdict. Now the authorities are saying that the women are not employable because they have reached the retirement age. However, the key point here is that they were indeed below the retirement age when the verdict was pronounced by the Supreme Court, Mr. Shanbhag said
The hapless illiterate women are asking whether there any other court above the Supreme Court of India so that they can get their hard earned salaries, Mr. Shanbhag lamented.