Scores of former Amrapali Group employees went on an indefinite hunger strike from Friday, alleging that the real estate giant owed them lakhs of rupees in unpaid salaries which it did not pay on the pretext of demonetisation and a slump in real estate prices.
The workers, sacked over the past more than one year, alleged that while their salaries were withheld, the real estate group owners have amassed personal properties worth crores of rupees.
However, an Amrapali representative told IANS that the situation was not as bad as the former employees were presenting because the group was paying them in instalments and wanted to clear all pending dues "as soon as possible".
The protests were staged at many Amrapali projects, and the main demonstration was held at its corporate office in Sector 62 of Noida.
"They (the group owners) lead such a grand lifestyle...They have amassed properties worth Rs 800 crore. Yet they do not have money to give our salaries. They spend it all on their comforts," Prashant Kumar, an engineer working with the firm before he was sacked, told IANS.
He said nobody was coming to help them - neither politicians nor labour and workers association.
"It is our misfortune that nobody is standing with us now, neither any political group nor any labour association. Even media, which knows all about the issue, is remaining silent," Kumar said.
Kumar alleged that Amrapali Chairman Anil Kumar Sharma recently spent Rs 55 crore on his daughter's wedding in Rajasthan.
The employees said they were terminated by the group citing falling profits and demonetisation, which caused slump in the real estate sector.
"This pretext is completely baseless. They had started firing employees from January 2016 onwards, which continues till date. They even stopped contributing their share in the Employers Provident Fund six months before it went on a sacking spree... the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation is yet to take any action on our complaint against it," Manpreet Singh, who was fired last January as Deputy Manager, told IANS.
He said the company owes him 10 months salary.
Another employee showed IANS a number of cheques issued by the firm, which were refused by the bank.
"They owe me about two lakh rupees. They should have cleared our dues within 45 days of our termination, but they don't seem to have any intention of paying up at all. I had to borrow money to pay for my children's school fees," said Sujeet Jha, a project manager (civil) who received his termination letter last August when he was admitted in a hospital.
However, Adarsh Mohan, a representative from Amrapali Group, told IANS that the firm has over the past one year paid instalments of Rs 5,000 to a number of former employees. Some of them, he said, got it once while others got it twice.
"You know that the real estate market is down everywhere. On top of that, demonetisation hit us hard. The situation is not as bad as the workers are saying. We are paying them in instalments and will clear dues as soon as possible," Mohan said.
There are many unregularised employees, known as 'casual workers', who were hit the hardest. They claimed that they were sacked verbally and have no means to prove that any money is owed to them.
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