Air India makes dad work without pay while baby Eliza needs urgent treatment

Updated: Feb 11, 2019, 16:44 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

mid-day follow-up >> Father, Anand Waghmare, resumes work only so that he can pay for his daughter's life-saving treatment, but company does not pay salary, claiming he owes them money

Baby Eliza's head continues to swell upon discontinuing her treatment in Mumbai
Baby Eliza's head continues to swell upon discontinuing her treatment in Mumbai

Whistle-blower Anand Waghmare, 42, and his family continue to pay for his efforts to expose corruption in the company he works, Air India Engineering Services Ltd (AIESL). After arm-twisting him to move from Mumbai to Nagpur, discontinuing treatment for his critically ill baby, now it turns out the company has been making him work for free. For the past two months, AIESL has not paid salary to Anand, claiming instead that he owes them Rs 4.5 lakh.

mid-day has been reporting on the plight of Anand and his seven-month-old daughter Eliza's plight since October 2018, highlighting how the company abruptly transferred him from Mumbai to Nagpur and refused to let him be with his wife and child after a complicated delivery. When he returned to Mumbai for his loved ones' treatment, the company stopped paying him salary. His employers showed no compassion even after baby Eliza was diagnosed with life-threatening hydrocephalus (fluid build-up in the brain). Instead, they put Anand under inquiry for going to Mumbai to be with his family.

After nearly a year without salary, Anand moved his family back to Nagpur, so that he could resume work from December 17, 2018. This meant that Eliza's ongoing treatment at Cooper Hospital has to be stopped. In Nagpur now, Anand and his wife Jayanti have been forced to drain the excess fluid from their daughter's brain themselves, because they have been unable to find a neurosurgeon able to do it.

Mumbai: With no surgeon, baby Eliza's parents extract her cerebrospinal fluids themselves

No salary again
After making all these sacrifices, he has not even been paid. On Friday, for the second month since he returned to work, he received a payslip with negative balance of Rs 2,667 (an amount that the company claims Anand owes them). In the first month's salary slip, AIESL had claimed he owed the company Rs 4.5 lakh.

Anand said, "I don't understand how my salary slip shows negative balance, as I have never taken any advance, nor was I paid any salary since April 2018. [At this rate] how can I continue treatment for my sick baby?"

Many discrepancies
Even the calculations on AIESL's end are strange, as the purported dues somehow went from Rs 4.5 lakh to less than Rs 3,000 in a month. This is not the first time the company has sent him misleading payslips, alleged Anand. According to him, while he was in Mumbai, even though the airline had stopped paying him since March 2018, he continued to receive payslips that showed he was being paid his full salary.

On February 9, a day after he received the latest salary slip, Anand sent an email to the administrative head at the Nagpur office, raising serious concerns about the non-payment of salary, as well as issues with his work profile. He pointed out that the promotion he had been granted last year was not reflecting in his salary slips, and also questioned why he had not been given any work to do ever since he returned to duty.

No reply from company
Last month as well, he had sent a similar email, but it went unanswered. The personnel department merely redirected him to the finance department, which operates from Kolkata. Emails to the officials concerned in the finance department have not been replied till date.

In his latest email, Anand wrote, "I haven't received my salary since April 2018, and only got salary slips on my email. As per the salary slips, I have been paid salary all those months, but where is the money?"

Meanwhile, says Anand, AIESL continues to mount pressure on him to withdraw all allegations against the company. Advocate Rajeshwar Panchal, who is representing Anand in the Bombay High Court, said, "This is a clear case of double standards. On one hand, the counsel for the management is keen for a settlement, and on the other, the management continues to harass the petitioner mentally and emotionally, by not giving him work and not paying salary, especially at a time when he is in dire need of funds to provide basic medical treatment to his ailing daughter."

The other side
A senior management official from AIESL said, "We have directed the personnel department and our counsel to do the needful subject to Anand withdrawing his complaints/allegation. However, I will have to revert on this specific details about salary not being paid." Anand has already expressed his disagreement to any settlement.

Eliza getting worse
Meanwhile, the circumference of Eliza's head has now increased from 45 cm to 47.5 cm (as of Saturday). There has been no improvement since the Waghmares shifted to Nagpur. Eliza's parents have been draining the fluid accumulated in her brain themselves. On average, they extract around 120 to 125 mg/dL.

'Harassing whistle-blower'
Godfrey Pimenta of the Watchdog Foundation said, "This is a clear case of harassment and witch hunting of a whistle-blower, who has sought to expose wrong practices, in the larger interests of the loss-making company. Denying salary is a clear human right violation, and if this issue is not resolved soon, Watchdog Foundation will undertake a dharna condemning Air India and its sister concern's inhuman action."

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