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Express newline

Thursday , March 16 , 2000
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Tribals unhappy with water


SURAT, MARCH 15: Some 800 tribals in the Dangs district today are a unhappier lot. The irrigation department, which had hired them for contruction of several check dams over the last one year, has not paid them even their minimum wages.

Interestingly, the development comes in wake of the fact that Tribal Development Minister Mangubhai Patel has been appointed minister in-charge of the district and senior IAS officer S K Nanda the secretary in-charge to supervise developmental activities there.

Till April 1997, minimum wages fixed for road, building and maintenance works was Rs 48 plus special allowances. After April 1997, the amount was revised to Rs 58 plus the special allowances.

But despite the revised wages, tribals who worked on Kosimpathad check dam were paid only Rs 48 instead of Rs 63, secretary Dangi Mazdoor Union Bharat Pawar told Express Newsline.

The Union when approached the Labour Commissioner, Valsad, directed the irrigation department to pay ``the minimum wages as well as the special allowances.'' ``But when we met Mahakal, Executive Engineer of the Irrigation Department, and asked him to pay the difference, he told us not to pursue the matter. He instead tried to bribe the Union,'' Pawar alleged.

Mahakal, when contacted, however strongly denied that he had tried to give Rs 40,000 to Pawar to buy his silence.

The Union, however, insisted on its demand and forced the irrigation department to pay the difference to all those who had worked on Kosimpathad check dam. Mahakal then had to disburse Rs 68 ,000 as difference, Pawar claimed.

The Union later also brought to the notice of the Executive Engineer and Collector the issue was just about tribals working that for the check dam at Kosimpathad. About 800 tribals working at nine other check dams were paid Rs 15 less. ``We insisted that the Irrigation department should pay the difference to these workers too. But the Executive engineer again flatly refused to pay the difference,'' alleged Pawar.

Though the labour commissioner summoned the executive engineer and Union office-bearers for a hearing on February 24 at Valsad, representatives of the irrigation department reportedly did not turn up.

Justifying the demand raised by the Dangi Mazdoor Union, the labour commissioner has now asked the Union to ``make recovery claim 10 times, with compensation, either at Ahwa civil court or Valsad labour court'', Pawar said. When asked why the tribals were not paid the minimum wages, Mahakal said ``We paid the workers according to our old estimate. To pay the difference we will have to send a fresh estimate proposal to the government.''

When contacted, secretary in-charge of Dang district S K Nanda assured that the tribals would be given their dues.``I have already instructed the collector to make arrangement to settle their dues before Holi,'' Nanda told Express Newsline.

Copyright © 2000 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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