Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Student collective alleges IIT-Bombay pushed former worker to suicide by denying gratuity, mourns his death

Ambedkar Periyar Phule Study Circle, a student collective based at the Indian Institute of Technology- Bombay (IIT-Bombay), held the administration responsible for the suicide of Raman Garase, who worked in the campus as a contract worker for 39 years.

Garase died by suicide on May 01, Labour Day, after a long legal battle with the institute for post-retirement gratuity for contract workers, which he had been fighting for since his retirement in 2018.

On Friday, the student group conducted a condolence meeting for the 70-year-old known for caring for the green spaces on campus. Staff, students and facilities attended the meeting.

According to APPSC, Garase took his life after learning that the IIT-Bombay administration was going to challenge a second order he secured directing the premier institute to pay up the gratuity.

“Even after two legal establishments held IIT legally responsible for paying these workers the gratuity benefits, IIT didn’t listen to reason. What this “renowned” institution decided to do is to drag these workers into another long-haul legal battle by appealing in the High Court against this small victory of these workers.” APPSC said.

Powai Police told The Indian Express that police Garase, who allegedly hanged himself at his house in Powai Gaothan area, was suffering from depression over health issues and suggested IIT-B has nothing to do with the suicide case.

According to APPSC, three workers, including Raman, who retired on December 31, 2019, wrote to IIT to claim their hard-earned gratuity. After repeated follow-ups and being dejected with the response from the IIT administration, they moved to a labour court to seek justice.

They won the hard-fought battle before the controlling authority in the labour court, which passed an order asking IIT to pay the gratuity amount plus 10% interest for the delay period. IIT, not wanting to release the gratuity amount, continued making flimsy claims that these workers were temporary (despite their 39 years of service) and appealed to a higher authority.

This legal battle continued for two more years, which the workers again won in April 2024.

“However, this victory brought no relief to the ailing Raman, as he learned yesterday that IIT was planning to appeal against this victory in the High Court. He knew that an appeal in one more court meant a tedious legal battle of at least 3-4 more years. His “suicide” occurred against this backdrop,” A statement from APPSC reads.

“If one looks closely, though, this is not merely a case of a worker killing himself. His son says that he was very dedicated to his work for the institute. The “sahebs” would call him even at midnight if a tree branch had fallen on the road, and he would never complain about it. He would happily go due to his deference to this “renowned” institution. However, after exhausting himself in maintaining and helping run this institute for 39 years, this “renowned” institution didn’t care about giving him his labour right of gratuity benefits. When he began a completely disproportionate legal battle for his rights, this “renowned” institution came down on him with all its might.”

“The money that IIT has been using to fight against the workers is the tax money of the common people. IIT chose to hire costly lawyers with this money and probably spent more on them, rather than giving these workers their rights. We demand that the IIT Bombay administration should release the gratuity money of these three workers, who have already won the case, immediately, and stop abusing its might to kill any more workers,” the group added.

IIT-Bombay spokesperson said that the institute pays gratuity to eligible employees strictly as per the provisions of the prevailing Acts.

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