Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
As many as five thousand workers have been arbitrarily retrenched by the employer in Vedanta’s refinery site at Lanjigarh in blatant contravention of Labour Laws including the Minimum Wages Act and Industrial Disputes Act. Their earned back wages are not paid. But they are not retrenched by the real employer Vedanta Aluminum. They are retrenched by L&T, its construction contractor after the alleged illegal construction has been halted under union Government orders.
When the exploited workers harped on payment of their unpaid earned wages, they were on 31 August subjected to brutal beating by Orissa police. More than hundred workers are injured with bleeding heads, broken limbs, and internal injuries. Hundreds of workers have been arrested and, as reports coming from Lanjigarh this morning suggests, are being further beaten up in the police station.
In an interview taken on Camera last February, more than two dozens of workers had said that not a single worker is given an identity card; even many of them did not possess any entry slip (roll card). The original addresses of most of the workers were distorted on record so that in case of any accident or retrenchment or any other eventuality, the company could prove that such persons did not exist at all and the labor Law machinery would fail to help the aggrieved worker. Most of them in the interview had complained that the payment was much less than promised/stipulated amount of minimum wages besides being blatantly irregular. But they were unable to leave as their backlog dues were huge and they were tortured like bonded labors. There had been many deaths inside the plant in accidents, which were not reported outside. But the Labor authorities had never intervened, even if safety measures were almost non-existent and the workers being forced to do their jobs at great risks to their lives. .
This is an instance of Vedanta brand of development that Chief Minister Navin Patnaik has ushered into Orissa!