Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa Government marked for failure in every aspect of welfare has excelled in unfair labor practices, of which OMFED is the latest instance.

Since two days it has stopped supply of milk to people of the capital city and a vast area comprising Cuttack, Puri and Khurda districts as its plant at Bhubaneswar has failed to operate due to labor strike.

Unfair labor practice by the management is the cause of this strike.

The plant at Bhubaneswar, for operation, is dependant on around 250 workers everyday. But the public sector organization headed by IAS officer Hrushikesh Panda as the Chairman-cum-Managing Director has been compelling all of them to distress sell their labor while refusing to regularize them in employment.

It is shocking that only 40 workers are shown as casual workers, which means they work as and when they are required to work on daily wage basis. Records show that these 40 persons have been working everyday and are required to work every day as regular employees work. Hence they are entitled to regular scale of Pay with D.A. and other perquisites as law enforces in matter of regular employees. But they are deliberately debarred from this by being shown as casual workers.

The manner of exploitation of workers is so ingenuous that in a civil society one is to see it to believe.

Besides the batch of the 40 workers shown as casual as above, there is another batch of 45 workers clubbed as “contract workers” who work daily but are debarred from being recognized as OMFED’s casual workers.

Another group of 150 workers are also engaged daily in OMFED operation. But they are shown as “sub-contract” workers and are bereft of even the casual employer-employee relationship.

The two later nomenclatures are clearly devised to disown any legal responsibility in the cases of these wretchedly poor fellows, who are being compelled to distress sell their labor to the public sector monopoly milk trader run by the government with an IAS officer as its CMD.

The workers affected by unfair labor practices of the CMD are severely disadvantaged as the Secretary of the administrative department to whom they could have appealed to intervene in their victimization by the CMD is no other than the perpetrator of the illegality, Sri Hrushikesh Panda.

By appointing Panda as Secretary of the administrative department Chief Minister Navin Patnaik has preempted every administrative action against any illegal activities going on in OMFED, managed by Panda as its CMD.

Panda has defended his decision to keep these workers unemployed despite their daily employment as casual, contract and sub-contract workers on two grounds.

Firstly, there is lack of fund to regularize them and secondly, these workers are not qualified to work as workers on regular basis.

If the workers are not qualified to work as workers, how have they been working as sub-contract workers?

It is sheer disgusting to hear an IAS officer throwing such a statement in media about the workers on whose work OMFED is running. If these people are not qualified to work as workers why then OMFED has stopped its production on refusal of these workers to work?

The OMFED workers issue is an indicator of how Navin Patnaik government has been shielding misrule and wrecking havoc on the life of the working class. The top executive in this public sector undertaking is the Managing Director. Hrushikesh Panda IAS is the Managing Director. If the MD resorts to mismanagement and victimizes the workers, the intervening authority is the Chairman. Hrushikesh Panda himself is the Chairman. Now Hrushikesh Panda as the Chairman cannot take any action against the illegalities of Hrushikesh Panda as MD. So, whatever wrong steps Hrushikesh Panda takes as the MD becomes the steps taken by the Chairman in his capacity as MD without any remedy available to the affected. The State power to control, oversee and intervene in matters of this public sector undertaking is vested in the Secretary of the administrative department. Under the Rules of Business, the Secretary of a department is the chief executive of that department and hence he is the officer to whom the affected persons are supposed to go against mismanagement and mal labor practice in OMFED. But the Secretary of the administrative department is also the same Hrushikesh Panda.

Unless democracy is bastardized, such a scenario would never have grown.

If you love democracy, and if poor workers in this land have any right to live with dignity, react as you like.

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