DNIS News Network– The protracted battle for seeking justice for the four sacked employees of Gas Authority of India Ltd. (G.A.I.L.) has now reached a decisive phase with the Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar summoning the company's Chairman and Managing Director Prashanto Banerjee for a meeting, which will also be attended by the four disabled employees and Javed Abidi, Convenor of Disabled Rights Group (D.R.G.), on Monday, 18 July, 2005.
The struggle by the disability sector led by National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) and D.R.G. to seek justice for the four employees -- Rajpal, Rajiv Kumar, and Pushpa Kumari, persons with visually disability and Anju Thapliyal, person with hearing impairment, who were handed their termination letters without any reason or explanation from the compnay on just a day’s notice -– has been going on for over a year now. This entire period it has become clear that the attitude of the G.A.I.L management is going to go down in the history of disability rights struggle as a landmark example of apathy, arrogance and insensitivity in giving even the rights guaranteed to people with disability by the law of the land.
The fight between the adamant G.A.I.L. management and the disabled employees was uneven right from the day one, and the leading Public Sector Undertaking used its great resources and clout to launch a media and public relations blitzkrieg against these employees and the voices asking for justice. For Prashanto Banerjee it was clear a fight of ego, and for D.R.G. it was fight for justice as even today the company has not given convincing grounds for sacking these employees.
Javed Abidi, Executive Director of N.C.P.E.D.P. stepped in after the matter came to his notice, and wrote several letters to the G.A.I.L. and to the Petroleum Ministry, asking them to intervene and correct this injustice. But even the Ministry’s intervention failed to have an impact.
This forced Abidi to go on a fast unto death on 5 May, 2005, in the hope that it would help restore a means of living to these four disabled people. As the nation took notice of the strike, the Indraprastha Gas Limited (I.G.L.) came up with the offer of absorbing these four employees.
The offer was initially turned down by them, saying that they do not want charity but their due rights. However, on receiving assurance from the Minister himself that these four disabled people would be absorbed in I.G.L. with immediate effect and at the same seniority as they would have had, had they remained in G.A.I.L. and after the proposal was accepted by the employees, Abidi broke his fast on 6 May 2005.
It has been over two months since then. Despite the Minister’s personal intervention, and a pitched struggle by N.C.P.E.D.P. and D.R.G., the four people have yet to be absorbed by I.G.L.
The meeting called by the Petroleum Minister to personally intervene once again to resolve the matter is crucial for the employees and the disability sector at large.