Cuffe Parade gardeners ask for medical allowance, paid leave, sacked

Updated: Oct 30, 2019, 08:50 IST | Diwakar Sharma | Mumbai

Four gardeners approach Labour Commission after their demands to be made permanent employees and given benefits such as medical allowance and paid leave were denied by residents association

The ransacked temporary premises of the gardeners inside the CPRA Garden
The ransacked temporary premises of the gardeners inside the CPRA Garden

The Cuffe Parade Residents Association (CPRA) and its gardeners are at loggerheads over permanent employment, with the association sacking them after receiving a summons in the matter from the Deputy Labour Commissioner on October 25.

The gardeners' temporary accommodation at CPRA Garden has also been ransacked by CPRA musclemen, alleged their counsel Shafi Shaikh. The gardeners — Kailash Ramprasad Raut, Vishwanath Raut and two others — claim to have been tending to and cultivating the CPRA gardens in south Mumbai since 1990s. There are other gardeners working for the CPRA too but they have not been sacked.

CPRA gardener Kailash Raut's ID Card
CPRA gardener Kailash Raut's ID Card

"We are neither given medical benefits nor paid leave. We are illiterate people from Bihar and have been working as gardeners for decades," Kailash told mid-day. "When we go on leave, our salary is deducted. When I asked CPRA president Vijay Bhimrajka to make us permanent, he threatened to sack me. So I approached the office of Labour Commissioner and the Deputy Labour Commissioner summoned CPRA officials on November 8 to put forth their points," Kailash said.

"The CPRA musclemen ransacked our temporary shelter at CPRA Garden. The officials have banned us from the garden. They have our belongings including our clothes, household and grocery items, cash and other valuables," said Vishwanath.

CPRA gardener Vishwanath Raut
CPRA gardener Vishwanath Raut

Unhelpful police

"The Cuffe Parade police refused to file an FIR. It seems the men in uniform are influenced by CPRA officials," Vishwanath added. Amidst the lack of accommodation, the gardeners told mid-day that they have been forced to live on the streets. "After working for decades in the city, we are back to square one. We are going through the toughest phase of our lives just for demanding basic rights," Vishwanath said.

The two other gardeners, Rama and Nagendar, while not sacked, have been homeless since their residence was ransacked. The gardeners sought legal help after Cuffe Parade police refused to register an FIR. Shaikh has sent them a complaint via speed post. The zonal Deputy Commissioner of Police Sangramsinh Nishandar refused to comment.

The CPRA owns two gardens in South Mumbai — the 40-year-old CPRA Gardens spread over 2.5 acres provided by the BMC and the 15-year-old Bay View Marina spread over a 7-acre land provided by the Collector. "Both were being maintained by the staff of CPRA. The gardeners were hired specially to maintain the parks which are frequented by joggers and walkers. The parks come under the Public Charity Trust which is registered under the Bombay Charitable Trust Act," a source told mid-day.

CPRA's take

CPRA president Bhimrajka told mid-day that the demands of the gardeners are not maintainable in court as "they are not on the payroll of CPRA". "All gardeners are working here through a private contractor who has hired them to work. We have received the summons from the Deputy Labour Commissioner and our legal team will put forth our valid points before a competent authority. The demands of these gardeners will stand null and void in one date," Bhimrajka said.

However, said that many such private contractors have worked for the CPRA in the past 40 years but these gardeners have remained unchanged since 1996. "The CPRA hires security consultants and make them pay the gardeners from their account. The CPRA reimburses the security consultant later." Meanwhile, the counsel for the gardeners, Shaikh told mid-day, "The uniform, as well as the identity cards provided to these gardeners, belie the words of CPRA heavyweights."

Year since the gardeners have been working for the CPRA

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