Worst hit by the inflation, they are also the least equipped to fight the rise in prices. These people called maalis, groundsmen, markers depending on the part of the country they are in certainly not expected to bag juicy contracts like the cricketers. But given the boom in the cricket industry and the amount of money the Board of Cricket for Control in India (BCCI) and its affiliated units are making, it is also expected that benefits of this profit would trickle down to the grassroots.
This issue wouldn’t have come up had the maalis at Eden Gardens not issued a suicide threat in protest against miserly pay and poor living conditions. Although this move was in all probability instigated by the political conflicts within the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) ahead of its annual general meeting, it gave us a chance to examine how this lot is compensated, what kind of remuneration these people working at the nine Test centres in India get and whether there are grievances.
Of these venues, in Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Nagpur and Chennai the people under focus are happy. If not entirely with the salary, they are satisfied by the way they are paid through substantial bonuses. In other places, these people are not happy. In Kanpur for example, where maalis at Green Park Stadium are employed by the state government, what each of them get as daily allowance is lesser than what’s allocated for the state police’s sniffer dogs. The daily diet allowance for a dog is Rs 85, while the maalis have been getting Rs 42.50 per day for the last 17-18 years.
Although this can be treated as a stray case, a study of the situation across the country shows that in four other centres — Kolkata, New Delhi, Bangalore and Mohali — the salary structure has not been revised in accordance with the rise in the income of the governing bodies. Currently, the affiliated units get an annual grant of Rs 8 crore each.