Over 4,000 Almond Workers In Delhi On Strike Over Pay Hike, Fixed Work Hours

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Over 4,000 Almond Workers In Delhi On Strike Over Pay Hike, Fixed Work Hours

Almond workers are protesting in Delhi since March 1

New Delhi:

Almond workers in the godowns of Delhi’s Karawal Nagar have called for an indefinite strike after over 4,000 workers began protests on March 1. 

Among their 11 demands, two key ones are pay hikes and fixed work hours. These workers are paid Rs 2 per kg for the almonds they peel and workers usually put in over 12 hours daily.

Lalita, an almond worker for the past 20 years, said, “We had to protest in 2012 to get a raise and our wages were raised to Rs 2 per kg. Back then, godown owners promised that rates would be hiked by a rupee every year. It’s been 12 years since and there have been no raises. Now we want those Rs 12.”

Another worker Ranju told NDTV, “We are protesting for our rights. We deserve a hike. Our godown owners treat us poorly and make us work extra hours. We have been demanding a hike for quite some time but they refuse to raise our wages. They have to listen to us or our strike will continue.”

Like many others, Lalita and Ranju reach the godown at 4 am sharp every day and return home by 6 pm only to earn a mere Rs 150-200 a day. 

The protesters now demand a strict eight-hour workday policy, a payment of Rs 12 per kg of almonds they peel, and that they should receive their salaries between the first and fifth of every month.

With the workers on strike, the godowns in Karawal Nagar are shut. While some godown owners are fretting over losses, others say they have other businesses to make up for them. 

Speaking to NDTV, Devendra, a godown owner, said, “I had to shut down my godown. They could have told us they wanted a raise. We could have considered. Instead, they went on a strike.”

Another godown owner Harinder Singh said they are willing to raise the wages but can’t because of a lack of consistent profit.

“How can we pay them if we don’t have the money? I am not worried about the godown being shut. I have another business that will make up for the losses. As far as the hours are concerned, the workers do it at their will. We can’t force them to work extra hours,” he said. 

While the workers and godown owners contradict each other, the protesters claimed miscreants attacked to force them to break their strike.

One of the workers under conditions of anonymity said, “On March 11, our rally was attacked and 10 people were hospitalised. We went to the police but they did not help us. On March 13, goons went to the homes of some of the protesters and threatened them.”

Some migrant workers who are a part of the protest claimed their landlords were threatened and told to remove the workers forcefully.

Meanwhile, the police said they have been trying to get the godown owners and workers to talk. The Station House Officer of Karawal Nagar said they are verifying the protesters’ claims and deployed officers on the ground to ensure that law and order is maintained.

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