NEW DELHI: The sudden firing of 11 contractual workers of the Jammu and Kashmir girls’ hostel at Jamia Millia Islamia has caused a major uproar among hostel residents. These women workers include caretakers as well as sanitation workers.

The abrupt firing took place on October 2, without any prior warning or notice to the workers.

These contractual hostel employees were recruited in November 2018 when the J&K Girls’ Hostel was inaugurated. Their three-month contract was renewed at term’s end.

“There is no set procedure for the selection or termination of caretakers. There are no clearcut contract terms that employees of this central university are entitled to. There must be certain checks and balances to ensure that decision making is not concentrated in a certain quarter,” complained Azka Praveen and Shahana Parveen in their letter to the registrar.

The subtle hint in the caretakers’ complaint is directed towards Professor Nuzhat Parveen Khan, who was recently selected Provost. According to university guidelines the Provost has the ultimate authority and legitimacy of jurisdiction in any sensitive context.

Student residents have tried incessantly to meet and discuss their concerns with the Provost as well as the Warden, but say their constant unavailability has further exacerbated the situation.

“Most of these sanitation workers are young women, hardly 25 years old. They are either single mothers or the sole wage earners in their families,” a second-year resident told The Citizen.

The workers’ sudden termination has massively disturbed their lives, more so as they were not told why they were dismissed.

“This year, we did not have any election for the hostel student body. Instead, student members were merely selected by the Provost. Similarly, she also recruited male sanitation workers inside the girls’ hostel, abruptly. This will compromise our security and privacy,” said another resident.

“Relatives of the Provost have been appointed sole representative of the 700 girl residents of the hostels, without prior consensus or any bonafide procedure,” states a grievance complaint filed by residents of the J&K Hostel.

A member of the hostel administration told The Citizen that “The termination was done with administrative approval and under the guidelines mentioned for contractual employees of any Central University.”

“The authorities in Jamia Milia Islamia are not ready to hear about the fired workers. The Provost terminated these caretakers at noon, asking them to vacate the premises within two hours,” another resident said.

Hostel residents also allege that the decision to fire these contract workers comes at a handy time for the administration, as most students have gone home for the holidays, making it difficult to gather student solidarity.

Nevertheless, J&K Hostel residents plan to organise protests in the coming days.

The episode also reveals the fragile, vulnerable and opaque nature of contractual employment. Hired at lower salaries and without benefits or security of tenure, contract workers face limits to their professional growth, value addition, and the idea of belonging to a university or company.

The unfolding incident at Jamia highlights the repercussions of contract work on young people’s dreams and aspirations.