For the last three days, the 110 people working at the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority’s (HMDA) Urban Forest Nursery in Nallagandla- Tellapur have been protesting. They are up in arms because they have not been paid their dues for nearly three months now.
Speaking to TNM, T Mallesh, one of the workers who is protesting, said, “It has been three months now. Every time we ask them, they say it will be cleared very soon. How do we take care of our families? We have run out of basics at home. Some of the workers have been asked to vacate their homes after they failed to pay the rent for so long. We don’t even have enough to feed our families.”
The workers began protesting on Saturday, and continued for the next two days. They stopped DCM vans from entering the nursery. The DCM vans load saplings and take them to various municipalities across the state. Around six to 10 DCM vans come to the nursery to load saplings on a daily basis. The workers say they will continue their protests until their dues are cleared by the authorities.
The nursery is spread over 30 acres; it is from here that the saplings for the municipalities, organizations and government establishments are procured from. This nursery is the main feeder for the Telangana government’s Haritha Haram program, and has the capacity to house more than 1 crore saplings.
Matta Suresh Kumar, a social activist who resides in Nallagandla, was moved by their plight. On Sunday, he teamed up with two other donors and procured 500 kg of rice and distributed it to the workers. Speaking to TNM, he said, “I heard about their protest on one of the community forums. I went there and spoke to them and interacted with them. Some of us pooled in money and distributed 500 kgs of rice to them.”
The workers say they are forced to borrow money to make ends meet. “I struggled to take my son to the hospital after he suffered an electric shock. I had not money. With a lot of difficulty, I borrowed money and then took him to the hospital”, said Mallesh.
Speaking to TNM, I Prakash, the Director of HMDA’s Urban Forestry said that those protesting are casual workers employed on a work-to-work basis. He said, “There have been multiple reasons why the pay has been delayed. Our staff couldn’t ensure that the work was completed by these workers in the month of July and hence their payment couldn’t be made. The nursery was in a bad condition and it needed urgent attention. In the last three months the total work has been carried out and now we are in a position to clear the dues.”
“I can assure you that in a day or two the process from my end would be completed and in 4-5 days they will receive their payments,” added the Director. He also revealed that he was down with COVID-19, that being one of the many reasons why the bills couldn’t be cleared on time.