Ayahs are also human beings, don’t force them to work 24 hours: Kerala Administrative Tribunal

Expressing anguish over the plight of the caregivers (ayahs), the Kerala Administrative Tribunal (KAT) has directed the state government to rationalise their duty hours.
Ayahs are also human beings, don’t force them to work 24 hours: Kerala Administrative Tribunal

KOCHI : “At the old age home, I hardly get any sleep as we have to be at the service of the inmates round the clock. Working 24 hours for six days continuously is strenuous and I have developed health issues because of sleeplessness,” says Shylaja (name changed), a caregiver at an old age home under the social justice department. The caregivers are able to avail a weekly off only if they work round the clock for six days, she says.

“My day starts at 5.30am. I have to prepare breakfast and tea for the inmates. After that, I have to help them brush their teeth, bathe, and change clothes. I have to feed some of the ailing inmates. Some need help with primary needs. Though there is a private room to rest in at night, I hardly get time to sleep. I love taking care of the elderly, but I also need rest. The 24-hour duty is exhausting. I hardly get time to visit my children and spend time with them,” Shylaja says.

Expressing anguish over the plight of the caregivers (ayahs), the Kerala Administrative Tribunal (KAT) has directed the state government to rationalise their duty hours, limiting the work pattern to eight hours a day and 48 hours a week.

“The government cannot deny the ayahs just and humane working conditions. The government should recognise the fact that they are also human beings having every right as declared under Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said the KAT bench comprising Justice P V Asha, judicial member, and Pradeep Kumar, administrative member.

KAT directed the government to take all steps to implement the shift system within four months. The tribunal stepped in following a plea filed by five ayahs working at the Old Age Home for Physically Handicapped, Thodupuzha, Home for Mentally Deficient Children (HMDC), Kozhikode, Home for Physically Handicapped, Pratheekshabhavan (Custodial Care Home), Kozhikode, and Asha Bhavan (Women), Ernakulam, challenging the directive to them to work for 24 hours a day and six days a week.

The KAT bench declared that compelling ayahs to perform duties for 24 hours a day continuously for six days a week without a break is “arbitrary and unconstitutional”.

“While protecting the marginalised people, the government has to consider the fact that the ayahs also have personal responsibilities and they also have the right to exercise their fundamental rights. The ayahs are compelled to work throughout the day on six days in a week, just because the management manual enumerates the duties of ayahs and authorises the superintendent of the respective institutions to fix the duties and duty hours,” it said.

Counsel for the petitioners, Aruna A, pointed out that while other last-grade servants, who got advised from the same PSC rank list, are working only for eight hours, the ayahs are made to work for 24 hours a day.

KAT made it clear that the superintendents of the institutions should be directed to implement the modified duty hours for ayahs.

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