Due to the lockdown imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers at IITB are unable to work and hence, receive pay. In light of this, the institute has started a fundraising initiative to help these workers out in these difficult times. In this article, we will cover the different aspects of this drive, including what has been done so far and the plans for the future.
How are the fundraising efforts being carried out?
The institute had sent out a request for donations to all institute employees/staff to help various groups of contracted labourers. A committee comprising faculty and students was formed to oversee the disbursement of financial help, target the beneficiaries, and prioritise them accordingly.
About Rs.7,50,000/- was collected in the first phase of the donation drive, but the committee felt the need to set a target of Rs. 50,00,000/- so that the workers could avail a greater benefit. It has been decided to request the campus community again for donations. If necessary, alumni and other likely donors would be contacted for the same.
Who are the beneficiaries of the donation drive?
There are four different types of workers present on the campus: construction labourers, mess workers, security, and house-keeping staff reporting to the PHO.
The committee observed that these workers can be separated into 2 further groups: Group-A workers, whose salary during the lockdown period is guaranteed, and Group-B workers, whose salary during this period cannot be guaranteed. (These groups have been identified solely for the purpose of disbursement and prioritisation by the committee and there is no such stipulation in their contract.)
With limited funds available, the committee decided to direct its effort towards the Group-B labourers in the initial phase. The welfare of Group-A workers will be addressed after receiving more funds.
Of the four larger categories, security and house-keeping staff members attending duty are being provided with a regular salary, so they are part of Group-A. Those unable to attend duty due to being confined in a containment zone are considered to be Group-B workers.
Until now, not all the Group-B workers have been provided with aid due to insufficient funds: only the construction workers have received aid.
How is the disbursement taking place?
The committee decided to initially focus on those workers whose salary during the lockdown period is not guaranteed (construction workers), by helping them on a priority basis with Rs 3000/- in cash. The welfare of other workers will be addressed in the near future based on the availability of funds.
A brief summary of the money disbursed to workers till 22 May at various construction sites:
1) Research Park – 84 workers
2) SINE IRCC IDC building- 62 workers
3) B-25 building- 54 workers
4) Hostel 17 building-120 workers
So they have disbursed Rs. 3000/- to 320 workers so far. It adds up to Rs.9,60,000/-
Are there any ongoing efforts to help the workers who are not currently in the institute?
The committee held a video conference on May 22 to discuss the other beneficiaries of the drive. The next category that was prioritised was the private mess workers. The Dean SA office had sought information from the respective hall managers about the number of private mess workers regularly working in each hostel so as to gauge the amount to be distributed.
The different categories of workers in a private mess are the mess manager, supervisor, storekeeper, cook, helper, etc. of which helpers are most in number and also the most vulnerable during this crisis.
Hence, the committee has decided to target them as beneficiaries. According to the initial estimate from the HCU (Hostel Coordinating Unit) and the respective hall managers, there are about 328 helpers who need to be helped. To give them financial aid in the form of a one-time payment of Rs 3000, Rs.10 lacs will be needed in funds. Currently, this amount of money is not available for distribution.
Additionally, these helpers have left the campus hence it would be difficult to distribute the aid. To overcome the issue, their bank account details have been requested from their contractor so that the amount may be deposited directly into their accounts. However, in such a situation, tThe committee will also cross-check this with the workers to ensure that they actually receive the money.
In what other ways are workers being helped?
During the lockdown period, the CPWD has been asked to ensure timely payments of ‘kharchi’ and dry rations to all workers. In addition, one meal per day has been arranged by IIT Bombay for about 250 labourers through the Atal Aahar Yojana scheme and the NGO-Roti Bank.
What more needs to be done?
As is the norm every year, mess workers are not paid during the vacation months since their pay is derived from the students’ mess advances. However, the messes which run during the vacations pay their workers from the profit earned during that period. As the messes did not function for the months of April and May, money was not deducted from the students’ account and thus, the workers couldn’t be paid.
As the committee does not have sufficient funds, the students may be requested to donate their Mess Advance for the month of April 2020 to help the mess workers
The current proposal is to request the students to donate their mess advances for the month of April 2020 so that the workers can be paid a one-time financial aid and also a portion of their salary starting from the month of June 2020 (which is when the campus was originally supposed to reopen). The average utilised monthly mess advance is about Rs. 3500 and there are about 9000 students. If around 5000 students agree to the proposal, it will generate an amount of 1.75 Cr. The contractors will also be asked to chip in a comparable amount from their side so that the workers can be paid at least 50-60% of their salaries starting from the month of June.
A meeting of all the hostels’ GSecs, the GSHA, and the Dean SA was called on 27 May to discuss this issue. The proposal for the donation drive was put forward and was unanimously accepted, in principle. However, the specifics regarding implementation are to be discussed in the next meeting. The details regarding the same will be officially conveyed to students via email.
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