by Aggam Walia, UG’22 In the past three years, the Ashoka University Election Commission (AUEC) has
by Sankalp Dasmohapatra and Navya Asopa
On 9th November, the student community at Ashoka staged a protest in solidarity with the workers, who continue to face several issues including coerced transfers. Previously, protests fighting for workers’ rights have taken place both on-campus and online through social media posts and email spam.
The Ashokan community present on campus organised a sit-out at the atrium where they discussed the issues plaguing the workers. They put forward clear demands: 1) Undoing all the coerced transfers, 2) Ensuring direct hiring, 3) Revision of contracts, and 4) Establishing grievance redressal mechanisms. The email spam has received over 100 responses and counting, including statements of solidarity from several clubs and societies of Ashoka.
Sanjeev Bikhchandani, a Founder of Ashoka University, was cc’d in the email spam and responded, “I am afraid Founders have nothing to do with the day to day operations of the University. You will recall that it was the students who agitated in March and demanded a founder firewall. That was agreed upon and has since been implemented. You and your fellow students’ emails to the founders violate the same firewall.” He recommended that the students address the Pro-VC as he deals with the day-to-day operations on campus.
On 25th October, the Vice-Chancellor claimed in an email that she had spoken to Pawan, a worker hired by Quess who was forcefully transferred to Gurgaon. She claimed that Pawan was happy with his new placement and that a common career trajectory was agreed upon.
Concerned students on 26th October held an open meeting with Pawan wherein students, alumni and faculty asked him about his transfer status and his views on the same. The administration, while invited to said meeting, was notably absent.
Pawan mentioned that he had been forcefully transferred from Ashoka to a placement in Gurgaon. This was accompanied by a severe salary cut due to which he is unable to make ends meet. Out of the 20,000/- he earns, 9,000/- are spent in food and travel. He is left with 11,000/- but his children’s school fees are 11,500/-. When asked about the VC’s comments, he mentioned that he had a conversation with Bhaskar Mishra (VP of Operations) in which he asked to be transferred back to Ashoka. Mr. Mishra informed him that that was out of the question and that marginal increases to his salary were possible after further negotiation. He was forced to distribute sweets as a way to show that he had happily accepted the offer. A distressed Pawan elaborated on his grievances, including severe travel issues, problems with shifting his family to Gurgaon and sending his children to school.
Other workers have complained about salaries being stagnant for the past five years, an absence of vacation days, poor upward mobility, no bonuses on Diwali, and more. Workers have filed a petition regarding the promotion of Vijay Sir and a demand for greater democracy with regards to their treatment on campus. One of the main concerns included in these anonymous complaints is that Ashoka does not reward long-term staff members, even those who have been present at Ashoka since the beginning. Administrative roles that would have been natural promotions for these members end up going to workers hired from outside. These members are either transferred or continue working in the same roles. It is alleged that hiring from outside is done partly because it is easier to negotiate management level positions with low salaries with workers hired from outside.