Christmas cheer: For sanitary workers, tis not season to be jolly

Fifty daily wage workers sacked this month.


Obaid Abbasi December 20, 2013
A file photo of Christmas gifts. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD:


As the festive occasion of Christmas draws nearer, Christians all over the world frequent markets and malls to buy presents and treats for themselves and their loved ones. Shahzad Masih’s household, however, paints a drearier picture. 


The 19-year-old has little to be joyful about after being fired from his job as a Capital Development Authority (CDA) sanitary worker on December 1. “For nine years I have been cleaning Street 22 in Sector I-10/4, and this is the reward. I get sacked in a few seconds,” lamented Shahzad, who has been sitting outside the press club for the past two weeks demanding an explanation for the decision.

Explaining his sacking, Shahzad said he was informed by his supervisor to not come back to work without any explanation. “I was expecting a special Christmas allowance that day along with my salary. Instead I got sacked.”

And it gets worse. Shahzad was not the only member of his family fired that day. His mother, another CDA sanitary worker, was also removed from her job. They earned Rs600 a day between them cleaning the city’s streets. Shahzad added that his father had divorced his mother in 2012, leaving her, Shehzad and his two younger sisters to fend for themselves. They are living in a rented room in Dhok Kala Khan and are barely capable of paying the Rs3,000 monthly rent.

Shahzad Masih is not the only one with a woeful tale. Over fifty CDA daily wagers were sacked by the authority on December 1.

Nazar Masih, 65, joined back in 1998. While sharing his ordeal, Nazar said that he is the sole bread earner of his family. “I have only one child, a son who is a drug addict, and my wife has been paralysed for the last five years. This Rs300 per day was the only income my family had to live on,” Nazar said while shivering in a frigid open area across the press club. He joined the CDA when his daily income was just Rs40, and continued his job up until December 2103 when he was suddenly dismissed. “I have no option but to sit outside the press club and hope,” he added.

Another employee of almost 16 years, Musarat Shaheen, 40, was also a daily-wage worker. Complaining that poor people and especially minorities are not granted their rights in this country, she posed the question, “How am I supposed to run my household and raise two kids without a job?” She shared that she had been sitting in silent protest for the last two weeks but their issue had not been highlighted. “Never in my life did I imagine that I’d be sitting outside press club like this a week before Christmas,’’ she added sadly.

Interestingly, CDA administration member Amir Ali Ahmed was unaware of the termination of the fifty workers. When asked about the legal status of daily-wagers and the dismissal of fifty people without ostensible reasons, he brought up the amount of red tape within every wing of the CDA and the need for streamlining operations. “I will definitely look into the matter...the daily-wagers should be restored before Christmas,’’ he said.

The CDA has appointed around 2,701 people on daily-wage basis, 270 on contract basis, 58 on special scales and four as consultants since February 2008.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2013.

COMMENTS (1)

Jonaid Iqbal | 7 years ago | Reply

We wish a lot of cheer to Christian citizens of our land on Christmas Day, next Wednesday.I suggest, those who know their Chrisian friends and neighbours, might wish them and send them afffordable presents, such as Christmas Cake, or a kilo of fresh apples and kinos.. Like always I have set an example by giving to two Christian ladies, who work with us, twice each week.

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