Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Labour officer blows whistle on graft

New Delhi, June 21: With student leader Kanhaiya Kumar by his side, an officer, till recently based in the Regional Labour Commissioner's office in Ranchi, has alleged that he was being targeted for exposing violations in wage and safety regulations by companies in Jharkhand.

Labour enforcement officer (central) Pawan Kumar told the media here today that he was being forced to go public as he had escaped an attempt on his life and was under political pressure to turn a blind eye to industrial crimes.
"Four staffers of the Regional Labour Commissioner (central) office attacked me on May 3 and even tried to strangle me. Instead of acting against them, I have been transferred to Chennai," he said.

"These staffers attacked me as they were transferred out on my complaints that they were working at the behest of companies by informing them of raids and working as brokers for them to decrease fines imposed for violation of labour laws," Pawan, who read sociology in JNU more than a decade ago, told reporters at the Press Club of India here.

Pawan went on to allege that after he filed a complaint at Ranchi's Jagannathpur police station, BJP mandal adhyaksh Ramji Prasad filed a counter complaint against him on the party's letterhead for attacking the employees.

JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar explained why he was with Pawan. "We stand with him in solidarity. I feel that his life is in danger as he has dug out several important documents. He came to us in a very disturbed state and is talking about suicide. We stand with him in his fight against corruption," the JNU leader told The Telegraph.

Pawan's family is settled in Ranchi where he graduated from St Xavier's College.
His troubles began when he took on his father's former employer, PSU Heavy Engineering Corporation (HEC) for withholding gratuity dues of more than Rs 2 crore.

After a complaint was forwarded by the PMO in 2013, Pawan inspected HEC's records in Ranchi and found that at least 1,000 employees had not been given their dues.
After no action was taken, Pawan said, he wrote to chief labour commissioner A.K. Nayak in January, saying that his parents were being harassed by the HEC management.

Last year, Pawan claims to have uncovered a more serious violation, that of blatant flouting of safety norms by a mining company belonging to the Aditya Birla Group.
"On a spot inquiry of Hindalco bauxite mines in Lohardaga and Gumla in October last year, we found that labourers were carrying magazines of explosives with their hands. They had not been trained to do the job and were being paid the wages of unskilled labour for a skilled job," he alleged.

Pawan's report on the findings, a copy of which is with this paper, says that even first aid boxes were missing in the mines.
"Regional Labour Commissioner G.S. Doraiburu told me not to file a report that showed the company in poor light. I filed the report on October 15, 2015, and on the same day he filed a false case (against me) under the Prevention of Atrocities against SC/ST Act," Pawan said.

Doraiburu disconnected his cellphone once this reporter identified himself. He did not respond to subsequent text messages from The Telegraph too.
Pawan, who is now in Delhi to lobby against his "unfair" transfer, claimed he has written several letters to Union labour and employment minister Bandaru Dattatreya, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee, demanding a judicial inquiry into corruption in his department.

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