Slaves in Delhi: How Delhi Govt Fails to Protect Labour Rights
Poor workers – who are facing increased torture – allege that they were not being paid minimum wages while they were forced to stay on duty continuously for 12 hours every day without paying overtime wages.
By Rakesh Raman
This fact is manifested by a bone-chilling case in India’s capital New Delhi. An upmarket group housing complex in Delhi’s Dwarka region – which is said to be the largest residential suburb in Asia – is still employing men as bonded labourers and the managers of the building treat the poor men as slaves.
This case is being studied and pursued by RMN Foundation – a humanitarian organization in India. Among its various philanthropic activities, RMN Foundation runs an exclusive service Clean House on its global news service to reveal the cases of corruption and other illegal activities in Delhi’s cooperative group housing societies where millions of people live.
This particular case is of DPS Cooperative Group Housing Society, Plot No. 16, Sector 4, Dwarka, New Delhi – where extreme labour rights violations and other illegal activities have been happening for years.
Summary of the Case
A group of security guards, who were appointed by the managing committee (MC) of DPS Housing Society, filed a complaint with the office of the Labour Commissioner of Delhi alleging that they had been facing increased torture inflicted upon them by the MC members of the Society.
In their complaint, the security guards allege that they were not being paid minimum wages while they were forced by the MC members to stay on duty continuously for 12 hours every day without paying overtime wages.
The office of the Labour Commissioner of Delhi issued a notice to DPS Housing Society MC members who are blatantly trying to ignore the notice under false pretexts and have refused to honour their written contract with the security guards.
The MC members (MC has 7 members) took the decision to appoint the security guards and fix their wages without taking formal approvals in the General Body Meetings (GBMs) or without the approval of other members of the Society. Obviously, the MC members are personally responsible for this alleged crime. If other ordinary Society members support this action, they should also face the legal consequences.
Although the Registrar Cooperative Societies (RCS) of Delhi Government – which is supposed to regulate the Society affairs – has been informed about this case, strangely the RCS office is reluctant to take any action against the MC members.
The DPS Housing Society MC members are already facing an inquiry directed by India’s top anti-corruption organization Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). They are trying to get this inquiry scuttled unscrupulously in connivance with the RCS officials who are also target of the inquiry.
Strangely, the office of the Labour Commissioner which is supposed to protect labour rights is showing its helplessness and inability to deal with the MC members and protect labour rights of the persecuted security guards.
The offices of the Chief Minister of Delhi and Lt. Governor (LG) of Delhi were also informed about this case. But they work as mere post offices and just forward the public complaints from one desk to another without taking any decision.
Finally, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) – which is India’s top organization to protect human rights – had to intervene in this case (NHRC Case No. 4807/30/07/2017). The Home Department of Delhi Government under directions from NHRC has urged the Labour Commissioner and the Registrar Cooperative Societies (RCS) of Delhi Government to take action in this case.
So far, all the MC members involved in this case have deceptively managed to hoodwink the authorities and circumvent the law in order to get off scot-free.
The government and other law-enforcement agencies are expected to soon frame the charges and start legal proceedings in order to catch and punish the culprits in this labour rights abuse and corruption case.
Now, in order to seek justice, the poor guards are running from pillar to post.
Here is the list of accused in the case:
Current MC Members of DPS Housing Society who failed to protect labour rights of the security guards:
- President: Neeraj Kumar Vaish
- Vice President: R. Bala Subramanian
- Secretary: M.N. Sampathkumar
- Member: Ms. Leela Swami
- Member: Sandeep Taneja
- Member: Manguram Tyagi
- Member: Ms. Naseem Afshaque
Past MC Members of DPS Housing Society who were responsible to appoint the security guards:
- President: Col M.M. Shukla (Retd.)
- Vice President: Neeraj Kumar Vaish
- Member: Geeta Gautam
- Member: Leela Swami
- Member: R.K. Saggi
- Member: H.L. Kaul
- Member: K.L. Narayanan
The government and other law-enforcement agencies must also investigate the role of RCS officials who have failed to take any action against the DPS Housing Society MC members. The investigation should also extend to include the top officers in the RCS office.
Details of the Case
In the already spiraling spate of illegal activities at the DPS Housing Society in Dwarka, the managing committee (MC) members of the Society are now embroiled in a serious labour exploitation case.
A group of security guards, who were appointed by the MC as employees in the Society, have filed a complaint with the office of the Labour Commissioner of Delhi alleging that they had been facing increased torture inflicted upon them by the MC members of the Society.
In their complaint particularly against DPS Housing Society President Neeraj Vaish and Secretary M.N. Sampathkumar, the security guards allege that they were not being paid minimum wages while they were forced by the MC members to stay on duty continuously for 12 hours every day without paying overtime wages.
Although the past and present DPS Housing Society MC members who are accused in this case have not yet been caught and punished, these MC members have grossly violated the labour laws.
The UN agency International Labour Organization (ILO), for example, treats workers’ rights by incorporating them into two articles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which is the basis of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Of these, Article 23 states that “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.”
Identified by the ILO in the ‘Declaration of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work’, core labor standards are “widely recognized to be of particular importance”.
Moreover, according to ILO, the labour rights are universally applicable, regardless of whether the relevant conventions have been ratified. Core labor standards are important human rights and are recognized in widely ratified international human rights instruments including the most widely ratified human rights treaty with 193 parties, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) with 160 parties.
Violation of Labour Laws
Obviously, all the labour laws are applicable in India which is a member state of the United Nations (UN) and its labour rights agency ILO.
However, the DPS Housing Society MC members are blatantly violating the labour laws and the Delhi Government and law-enforcement agencies have failed to frame specific charges and catch the culprits.
The government’s failure in this case to protect people’s rights will further tarnish India’s image in the global arena. Recently, the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said that the “human rights situation in India is darker and dangerous.”
The security guards of DPS Housing Society – who are being treated as slaves – are experiencing this dangerous human rights situation. The guards allege in their complaint that Neeraj Vaish and M.N. Sampathkumar always told them that their balance money is being deposited in a separate fund, but they were never told about the details of that (secret) fund and they never received the money from that fund.
Thus, in order to deprive the security guards of their minimum wages and overtime payments, Neeraj Vaish and M.N. Sampathkumar told lies to cheat the poor guards.
This is also a case of corruption. According to the Vigilance Manual 2017 of India’s top anti-corruption organization Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), corruption is manifested in various forms such as bribery, nepotism, willful action or willful inaction to benefit someone or to deny benefit to someone known or unknown.
It also states that corruption includes cases of favoritism and failure to follow laid down processes leading to unintended benefit to someone or denial of benefit to the deserving.
Going by CVC’s definition of corruption, Neeraj Vaish, M.N. Sampathkumar, and other MC members should also face corruption charges because they “failed to follow laid down processes leading to denial of benefit to the deserving.”
When the guards objected to this torture, Secretary M.N. Sampathkumar through a letter dated September 3, 2017 suddenly terminated their employment from September 30, 2017 without stating any reason for the job termination.
Sampathkumar ordered the poor guards to leave the job with a notice of less than a month, although they were supposed to be given 3 months’ notice as per the DPS Housing Society’s written agreement with the security guards. The agreement was signed last year by the then President M.M. Shukla, who had resigned under mysterious circumstances before completing the term.
The current President Neeraj Vaish and Secretary M.N. Sampathkumar refused to honour that agreement under the pretext that it was not proper, although they never mentioned about the impropriety of the said agreement for more than a year when guards were working in the Society.
While the case is still under litigation, the DPS Housing Society MC has arbitrarily decided to become the judge, jury, and executioner in the case and refused to compensate the harmed security guards.
Wrong Termination Decision
When guards complained in the Labour Commissioner’s office, these MC members even called the police to threaten them and justify their unscrupulous termination decision. According to the guards, the MC members also asked them to leave the guard room when they were on duty. The guards were virtually treated like bonded labourers or slaves by the MC members which is also an offence according to the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976.
The DPS Housing Society MC members terminated the guards’ services arbitrarily without getting the decision approved in the General Body Meeting (GBM) of the Society members – which is mandatory.
As the MC members are known for their corrupt practices, it is possible that they might produce GBM approval fraudulently. In that case, all those members who support this termination decision of security guards must be treated as the accomplices in the alleged crime.
After removing the affected security guards, the MC members hired new security guards without discussing it in the GBM and without informing the members about the hiring process that the MC followed. The MC also failed to show the comparative proposals of different security agencies to Society members while the security contract runs into lakhs of rupees.
This is a gross violation of the RCS (Registrar Cooperative Societies) rules and the violation can be termed as corruption according to the CVC’s definition of corruption stated above.
While the MC members control public money worth crores of rupees, they are running the Society work like it is their personal shop. The people familiar with the case believe that the MC members are behaving like the villains of a Hindi movie.
They fail to realize that since the guards are thrown out of their jobs, it may be difficult for them to get a suitable job because the new employers will always hesitate to employ terminated workers.
The MC members have, in fact, mercilessly attacked poor guards’ livelihood and their dignity. They will also face social persecution at home and in the society when others will come to know that they have been thrown out of their jobs.
The individual MC members are personally responsible for this inhuman and unlawful act. So, along with other punishment prescribed in various laws that they would have violated in this case, these MC members – including Neeraj Vaish, M.N. Sampathkumar, and other past and present MC members – should personally compensate the guards instead of using Society funds for the purpose.
Unlawful Resistance by MC Members
As this is a case of labour rights violation, the Office of Joint Labour Commissioner (SWD) issued a notice dated 25.09.2017 to Neeraj Vaish, President of DPS Housing Society. But Neeraj Vaish and other MC members ignored that notice arrogantly.
On September 29, 2017, inspectors from the office of Labour Commissioner Delhi visited the DPS Housing Society office to meet the MC members – particularly President Neeraj Vaish and Secretary M.N. Sampathkumar.
The MC members argued illogically that since the housing society is governed by the office of the RCS (Registrar Cooperative Societies, Delhi Government), they will follow only the RCS orders. In other words, they resisted the inspection ordered by the office of Labour Commissioner – which must be treated as a case of obstruction of justice.
Neeraj Vaish and Sampathkumar failed to explain how RCS rules were preventing them to comply with labour laws for which they were questioned with a formal notice by the Labour Commissioner’s office. They also failed to explain how they terminated the services of the guards without following the GBM rules prescribed by the RCS office.
As there seems to be a clandestine arrangement between the DPS Housing Society MC members and the RCS officials, the MC members always try to take refuge behind RCS office when they are questioned for their inappropriate acts.
For example, when a few months ago Delhi Police – under the directions from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) – came to check illegal car parking in the DPS Housing Society building, the MC members hoodwinked the police by saying that only RCS rules apply on them.
Strangely, Delhi Police accepted this weird argument and did not bother to get the illegal car parking stopped. The illegal parking in the building is posing a serious risk to people living in the Society, as it is preventing the entry of fire-fighting vehicles and ambulances in emergency situations.
Although the Assistant Director (Vigilance) of the Delhi Police informed the RCS office, the RCS office, as usual, did not take any action against the MC members of DPS Housing Society.
Mysterious Protection from RCS Office
During the past about a decade, the successive MCs of DPS Housing Society have been committing numerous illegal activities under the mysterious protection that they enjoy from the RCS office.
In order to conceal and condone the illegal activities of the MC members, strangely the top officers in the RCS office accept the frivolous responses of the MC members while working in a perfunctory manner.
Most would know that the RCS office has a long history of corruption and reportedly many of its officers have been caught even by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in corruption cases. You can read about Case 1 and also Case 2.
As an excuse to protect the lawless MC members of DPS Housing Society, the RCS office unnecessarily gives a big importance to the decisions of the General Body Meetings (GBMs). But despite receiving numerous complaints from the affected members, the RCS office has refused to realize the fact that GBMs have become a big fraud at DPS Housing Society.
For example, the MC’s permission to allow illegal car parking to about 40 members is a kind of bribe to those members to win their vote and support in elections and GBMs – and thus get even the illegal decisions approved by the majority of members – which is in fact a group of law-breaking members.
Similarly, to fraudulently win members’ support, the MC has allowed illegal building alterations in individual flats. Thus, all GBMs which are mostly attended by such law-breaking members are bogus. Multiple objections have been raised by the aggrieved members about the faulty process of holding GBMs but strangely the RCS office has always ignored them.
When a group of senior citizens requested the RCS office to save them from dust and noise pollution that will come from the planned construction activity at the DPS Housing Society, the RCS office again did not take any action against the MC members.
People fail to understand the secret behind RCS officials’ extreme attachment with the MC members of DPS Housing Society.
The DPS Housing Society MC members are committing all unlawful acts under the garb of an ‘elected body.’
Society Election and Corruption
The MC members boast that they have come unopposed in the MC office. That has been happening for the past many years for no honest person wants to contest election and become part of the MC because of the persisting mess in the Society’s accounts.
Only greedy people whose eyes are on making easy money become MC office bearers and oppose all attempts to get Society financial records investigated by the authorities. The MC members also boast about their connections with the politicians, police, and authorities indicating that no action can be taken against their frauds.
Shockingly, that may be true. Despite their visible malpractices, the RCS office has refused to take action against the MC members. The RCS office is working hand in glove with the MC members to the extent that it has shelved even a CVC-directed inquiry against the DPS Housing Society MC members for unspecified reasons.
The inquiry was ordered by the Directorate of Vigilance of Delhi Government – under CVC’s direction. As the RCS officials have been secretly protecting the MC members, they were also the target of the inquiry. Although the RCS office had formally initiated the inquiry against the MC members, it was suddenly stopped without giving any reason.
CVC Inquiry Letter References:
RCS: F.47/Coop./1350/GH/SW/2011/7051 dated 4.5.2011
Directorate of Vigilance: F.27/2/2011/DOV/1080 dated 15.2.2011 forwarded by CVC
CVC: O.M. No. 1716/10/8/104428 dated 01.10.2010 and O.M. No. 1716/10/8/117161 dated 24.01.2011
While all the details of the CVC-directed inquiry should be available on the RCS website as well as the DPS Housing Society’s website, these are missing from both the sites.
As the MC of the DPS Housing Society is working in a totally dictatorial manner, it is using the Society website to propagate only its own interests while it does not upload the important communications including objections from other members on the website.
As millions of common residents in Delhi are victims of the terror unleashed by the MC members of different cooperative group housing societies, I have started an exclusive editorial section under the banner “Clean House” to help the suffering residents raise their voice against the growing injustice.
If you want Clean House to report about corruption and other illegal activities happening in your housing society, you may please contact me with relevant documents and details.
Recently, I had requested Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to thoroughly investigate corruption in DPS Housing Society which has been persisting for many years. In July 2017, I was informed by chief minister’s office that this case has been sent to the Anti Corruption Branch for investigation, which is still pending.
Meanwhile, the residents have started a signature campaign to take the signatures of the Society residents / members to get the present MC dissolved through the RCS office and get a government administrator appointed to streamline the working of the Society.
The signed letter was submitted in the RCS office on August 28, 2017. But the RCS office has not yet dissolved the MC, although it has become a situation of severe humanitarian crisis at the DPS Housing Society.
Now – after the labour rights violation case – it is expected that the RCS office will discharge its duties honestly and immediately dissolve the present DPS Housing Society MC so that the inquiry could be held in a fair, unhindered manner.
- To get full compensation for the security guards whose services were arbitrarily terminated by the DPS Housing Society managing committee (MC) members who are personally responsible for this act.
- To get the charges framed and legal proceedings started against all the accused MC members and their accomplices so that they could be caught and punished.
- To get an immediate stay / restraining order against the present DPS Housing Society managing committee (MC), prohibiting it from taking any decision and carrying out any work in the Society.
- To get the present managing committee (MC) dismissed through the office of Registrar Cooperative Societies (RCS) of Delhi Government.
- To get a government administrator appointed through RCS office for investigating the past and ongoing corrupt practices by the successive MCs of the Society. This should also include a Special Audit of Society’s accounts.
- To get specific charges framed against the guilty MC members and their internal and external accomplices under Labour Laws, Prevention of Corruption Act, Indian Penal Code (IPC), and the Right to Service Legislation which is aimed to reduce corruption and to increase transparency and accountability.
- To get an inquiry instituted against the officials at RCS office who have failed to take any action in the DPS Housing Society case despite repeated complaints from the suffering residents / members.
By Rakesh Raman, who is a government’s National award-winning journalist and social activist. He has formed an environment-protection group called Green Group in Delhi. Earlier, he had been associated with the United Nations (UN) through United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as a digital media expert to help businesses use technology for brand marketing and business development. He also runs a free school for deserving children under his NGO – RMN Foundation.