CHENNAI: Forty two-year-old Senthil Kumar was elated when he got a job through the state employment scheme as a night watchman at the State Consumer Forum in 2011. Two years later, he was promoted to office assistant, which required him to assist the court section ‘as per the directions of the staff’, hand over bills at the accounts office and assist the court clerk, among other duties. However, Senthil Kumar said that he had not worked even a single day at the court and also claimed that neither did many of his colleagues.
But Senthil and his colleagues are not slacking off either. In fact they slog the whole day, but at the residence of the registrar or at the residences of other IAS officers or retired judges. “I would work from 7 in the morning and start with washing vessels and then clean the house, cut up vegetables, ensure breakfast and lunch are taken care of, then pick up his daughter from school and when they feel like, they’ll tell me to leave. I’ve barely even visited the court in five years,” Senthil told Express. After he complained to the registrar, Senthil was transferred to a court in Thiruvallur, but he claims that he was put through agony while he was working at the registrar’s house. While Senthil was transferred, he claims that there were others who continue to work at the houses of the judiciaries.
However,these claims have not gone unheard. Krishnakumar V.R, who visited the consumer court regularly, found that there were no office staff available in the building. On further questioning, he realised that the majority of them were being employed at the residences. “Senthil Kumar told me about his ordeal and then I found that other employees were also working as personal drivers and helpers instead of at the court. So I collected evidence, took videos and photos and approached the commission,” Krishnakumar told Express. He then sent a petition to the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum and another to the National Consumer Forum as well. Both directed action to be taken against the misuse of the employees.
Besides this order, Krishnakumar approached the State Human Rights Commission which issued orders to the Food and Consumer Co-operation Department, Secretariat to ‘enquire into the matter and take necessary action’. The department has also directed the Registrar of the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to take action on the issue of the lack of staff. However, while all these orders have been passed in the beginning of last year, yet no action has been taken so far. Krishnakumar said that the main reason for the delay is the fact that a president has not been appointed to the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Chennai, and in his absence ,’the state commission stands paralysed’.
When Krishnakumar approached the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum for help in the appointment of a president, he was informed that it would be more effective to file a petition to the government seeking early appointment. However, the government has not yet taken any step.
Even with documents in hand, the employees continue to feel helpless. “Many of the staff continue to work as drivers for the registrar or other retired officials. They don’t want to speak out because they feel threatened that they will lose their jobs but are waiting eagerly for some relief,” explained Krishnakumar.
Nowhere to turn
Even with documents in hand, the employees continue to feel helpless. Many continue to work as drivers for the registrar or other retired officials. They don’t want to speak out because they feel threatened that they will lose their jobs