Lucknow: Helpline numbers provided by the administration have proven handy for the public to avail services in times of emergency. The three-digit numbers are also easy to remember. The operation of these helpline numbers is outsourced to private companies. Dial 112 is an umbrella service for Police (100), fire (101), health services (108), women's safety (1090), and child protection. Anyone throughout the country can simply dial 112 and avail the aforementioned services.
The backend employees of the organization act as the backbone of the service; they are the ones who answer the calls of people needing help. However, the operation of the number has been disrupted after hundreds of female employees went on strike, complaining that the new company, which has taken over the operations of the services from the erstwhile company Tech Mahindra, is not handing over the offer letters to them. Some allege that they have been issued an acceptance letter, which has imposed certain stringent conditions pertaining to their employment.
Speaking to The Mooknayak, an employee of 112 said, "Tech Mahindra had our contract, but later, another company, We Win, took over the operations. Before taking over, they came to the office to assess things, but they did not speak to us. We demanded that the offer letter be shared with us before Diwali, and the terms and conditions be disclosed to us, but the company did not heed us. We sat on a dharna against this outside the 112 office in the chilling cold. We were not allowed to go inside the washroom; we had to go in the open, and the police were using flashlights at that time. We did not block the roads, nor did we flout any rules. We were heading to the CM to convey our grievances, but the police stopped us and beat us severely and lathi-charged us. We are helping the citizens in 75 districts, but who will help us?"
Another employee, who has been working with the helpline for the last 2 years, said, "We want our salary increased to ₹17,000, and we also want to see our offer letter, which they have not shared as of yet." Countering the claims of the department that their salaries have been increased, she said, "The salary has been increased by only ₹200.
Pooja Shukla from the Samajwadi Party was at the protest venue to lend her support to the protesting employees. She said, "Yesterday, the employees were protesting outside the office of 112 for their demands, and they were subjected to harassment as they were not allowed to go to the washroom. In the morning, they were beaten severely and brought to the Eco Garden. Samajwadi Party is with them, and Hon’ble Akhilesh Yadav has spoken to them. If their demands are not met, we will be with them in the movement."
Harshita, another employee, said, "The male constables have beaten the females. The pregnant employees have been beaten, the differently-abled employees have been dragged. We have video proof of that."
Another employee said, "Earlier, we used to get 21 leaves in a year, but now the new company is offering us only 6 leaves throughout the year, as per the acceptance letter, which they are asking us to sign."
The Mooknayak noted that the trend of outsourcing is gradually taking over government departments, as the government finds it economical to outsource jobs, as providing regular jobs would incur heavy expenditure for the state. However, the entities which secure the contracts for these services often pay a minimal amount to the employees to maximize profits. Another significant issue with this practice of outsourcing to private companies is that the government can bypass the provision of reservation mandated in the constitution in the government sector.
The trend of outsourcing, which is gaining credence all over the country, needs to be assessed on the grounds of social welfare as well, as low purchasing power and unemployment can ultimately adversely affect the economy.