The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Aam Aadmi Party-led city government and others to respond to a plea of headload workers in agricultural markets who sought a revision of their wages which have not been revised for the last forty years.
The workers work mainly in the Azadpur mandi — Asia’s largest wholesale market for fruits and vegetables — led by the Rashtriya Hamal Panchayat Evam Anya Asangathit Kamgar Union which apprised the court that their payment on a piece-rate basis has not been statutorily revised since 1980. It termed it as a gross violation of their legitimate right to fair remuneration considering the sharp surge in inflation and the continued depreciation of the rupee over the last four decades.
Seeking directions to the respondents to ensure that freight should be charged on the basis of weight and not on piece-rate to ensure that transporters do not overload the transport bundles in excess of 50 kg, the petitioner urged to conduct a periodic survey to collect and maintain details of the workers and issue to all of them G category licenses and badges.
Under Rule 36 of the Delhi Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) General Rules, the respondents have the duty to fix the fees payable to headload workers or palledars, their petition contended.
In the plea, the headload workers — who perform the back-breaking task of loading and unloading all agricultural produce in the agricultural markets — said they cannot afford three full meals, proper clothing, education, health, and a roof over the heads of their family members.
Accordingly, a bench of Justice Rekha Palli issued a notice to the Delhi government and others and asked the Delhi Agricultural Marketing Board and the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), Azadpur to file a reply in this regard.
The court will hear the matter again on February 16.
The system of ‘palledars’ was originally governed by the Delhi Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 1976, which was replaced by the Delhi Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 1998, according to the plea.