The Railways Ministry has come under fire from the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) for evicting two of its lower grade staff from their houses at Anand Vihar. The reason? The members of the poverty-ridden families roam around in undergarments "causing acute embarrassment" to senior officers residing in adjacent flats.
Terming the action as "illegal and arbitrary", the tribunal asked the Northern Railway to immediately restore them the houses and pay a cost of Rs 5000. "If this is so, all the slums and jhuggis in this country will have to be removed as their existence is not liked by the well placed persons… Being poor in this country has become a curse", the tribunal judge, Shanker Raju, said.
The court said different treatment by the authorities at the behest of others who did not wish these employees to avail themselves of the rights merely because they were poor can never be justified.
Swami Nath and Aftab Alam were helpers (group 'D' employees) at a railway workshop. Due to absence of accommodation for their category, they were allotted outhouses which were in a dilapidated condition.
A complaint filed by certain high rank officers living nearby stated that these occupants were a nuisance as their large family roamed around in vests and underwear causing them, especially woman folks considerable embarrassment. They said that situation was so bad that "they had to restrict their life to their lawns and could no venture out".
The allotment of outhouses were cancelled after an inspection revealed that the complaint was genuine. Seeking justice before the CAT, the counsel of the evicted staff Amit Anand said the families were thrown out without being given the stipulated 30 days notice period.
Maintaining that the nuisance warranted eviction, Railways counsel R L Dhawan said the action was done in accordance with terms of allotment and they were temporary allottees who did not have a permanent right over the houses. But the tribunal asked why the poor employees were punished when they were not in any manner encroaching upon the rights of those officers.
“Only reason given is that their presence is not liked by the higher officers. This is not expected from a welfare state and more particularly from the Railways, the biggest industry. The employees whether he is a fourth grade employee or a high ranking officer they are working together for the progress of the railways”, the judge said.