Mumbai: Tower of Silence watchmen await delayed salary dues

Updated: Oct 05, 2019, 07:44 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Tower of Silence watchmen oscillate between hope and despair as they await delayed salary dues

Shivaji Atmaram Aghavane
Shivaji Atmaram Aghavane

Five watchmen at the Tower of Silence, a part of the Doongerwadi complex at Malabar Hill, have been struggling to survive owing to their salaries being delayed for the past four months. Yazdi Desai, chairman of the Bombay Parsi Punchayat (BPP) has cited cash flow problems for the delay and said that the dues will be cleared soon. The watchmen, each of whom gets around R8,000 a month, are, however, finding it difficult to make ends meet.

Their anguish stems from non-payment of salary dues for the past few months. Shivaji Atmaram Aghavane, 68, explained, "I have not been paid since June this year. My salary is R8,000 a month. I have been working at the Tower of Silence for two years. We are only being given assurances by the contractor and I work a 12-hour shift daily," said Aghavane who lives on the premises like the other watchmen. "We are five watchmen here," he added.

Aghavane said, "I have a son who is 24 and a daughter, 23, back home in Satara. I have to send money to my wife. Obviously, I have not been able to do so all these months. The situation is very dire at home, too," he added.

Despair was written all over Aghavane's face as he asked, "When will we be paid? My family is waiting. I am going to die without money, anyway."

Family worries

Bhagnarain Rai, another watchman who has to fend for his family back home in Bihar, said he has a mother, wife and two children to send money back to. "They are waiting for four months, and we are now into the fifth month. What do I tell them? How do I answer them?"

Manager V Mehta told mid-day that "proper procedure" had to be followed to do these interviews [referring to this reporter’s conversation with the watchmen]. He later said over a call, "We are looking after these watchmen. Do not worry. The contractor for this security personnel has to bring us a bill for the security after which they are paid. Sometimes, these bills are not in proper order, the process has to be streamlined."

Bhagnarain Rai
Bhagnarain Rai

Rakesh Verma, another watchman on night duty said he had not been paid for four months. He said that they had been told the cheques would be released in a day or two. "The Punchayet has promised us that we will get our payment in a day or two. These are very difficult days but we hope they will end soon. We just hope they release the entire amount. It is impossible to continue like this."

Will resolve soon

Desai said that "the delay of approximately two months is owing to some cash flow crunch." He said, "It will be cleared soon. We have about eight to 10 watchmen, the overall salary dues every month are in the range of Rs 68,000." Kersi Randheria, BPP trustee, too said, "There may be a slight delay due to cash flow planning." The Bombay Parsi Panchayat is one of the biggest private landlords in Mumbai with 5,500 flats.

Rs 7k-8k

Approximate salary of each watchman

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