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Various arms of the government are trying to implement biometric attendance system to which employees are protesting
Protest against the implementation of biometric attendance system i.e. an attendance system by way of biometric scanning by the workers and unions is underway in the Jhanjhra Area. Jhanjhra is a fully mechanised mine of Eastern Coalfields Ltd, situated in Raniganj, district Burdwan in West Bengal. The Khan Mazdoor Karmachari Union (IFTU-Sarwahara) (Mine Workers Employee Union (IFTU-Sarwahara)), has not accepted this system, being installed by the management and has decided to struggle against the installation.
Their pamphlet dated 2 September 2014 titled Bio-Metric Attendance: An attempt to enslave the workers reads:
Despite severe protest by the workers and unions, the Jhanjhra Area Management is implementing an anti-worker biometric attendance system i.e. an attendance system by way of biometric scanning of eyes and the whole face. Apart from this biometric attendance system, there is also a hurried move to install CCTV inside the mines and offices and thereafter, provide the workers GPRS-enabled caps so that the management can keep the workers and employees under continuous strict surveillance…Let’s see why it is necessary for the workers to oppose the biometric attendance and CCTV installation.
First, via this system of attendance, the biometric machine will scan our faces and eyes and keep them online on computer/internet. This fact in itself is illegal, dangerous and worth pondering. Why? Firstly, because the scanned photograph can be, intentionally or unintentionally, misused by any agency (the one that will be privy or have access to the data.). For instance, if any terrorist organization gains access to this data, then it can be used with catastrophic repercussion. We would like to raise the question: in such an eventuality, who will be responsible? The situation accentuates in case of female workers and employees.
It will cast severe question mark on their integrity and respect. Keeping these things in mind only, in a similar instance i.e. Aadhaar Card (Unique Identification System) the Supreme Court gave a verdict, in which, it categorically said that forcibly implementing the biometric identification infringes on the fundamental right of privacy. It is a well established covenant world over that without permission no one, not even the Government, can keep physical identification of a person. The constitution of India, as is well known, prohibits any agency/ management/ institution, whatsoever it may be, from keeping such data as physical identification of a person under its control and access without one’s due permission
Second, we do not know, nor the management has informed us on the radiations emitted by the scanning machine, but, on the other hand, the workers will have to undergo scanning of their faces and eyes twice a day. Who knows what will be the impact of it on our eyes and faces! Whether management has undertaken concrete scientific investigation about it, we do not know this, too. We demand to know who will be responsible for the possible long term deadly after-effects of the Scanning Machine’s radiation.
Third, how it will have impact on the extra time involved for the attendance of the worker.
Let’s assume that there are 100 workers standing in front of the machine to punch-in their attendance, if one worker takes minimum of 30 seconds (though in reality it may take much more), then for the last worker it will take extra 50 minutes to punch-in his/her attendance. That means he/she will have to leave for the work 50 minutes before the schedule. Same will be the case for punch-out. Who will be responsible for this wastage of time and who will compensate for this loss?
Fourth, the confidence of workers is vital. In case of the machine malfunctioning or it being out of order, or if it fails to record attendance even after saying “thank you” i.e. in case of false recording of attendance, and hence in case of attendance dispute arising there from, what proof will the worker have in his possession to claim that he was present?
Fifth, similarly what will happen for driller, dresser, explosive carrier and short firer? As is evident from the design of things appearing through biometric, pressure on them to enhance workload is bound to increase.
Sixth, as is becoming as clear as day light from the above facts, it is ludicrous as to why the management is wasting at all a fortune as big as thousands of lakhs or crores of rupees on installing the biometric system. It has been clarified above that there is no worth, as is being claimed over board by the management, in installing this machine; on the contrary, it is anti-workers, dangerous and one that will fuel unnecessary debate and unrest. Actually the main intention of the ECL managements is to have total control over the life of workers that is simply excessive and unnecessary.
Seventh, one of the arguments given by management is that it will increase production. The motive of installing CCTV inside the mines and offices, too, has to be seen in this light. In reality, the intention of the management is to increase the production by way of excessively pressurising the workers. The truth, however, is that precondition of increasing production is that workers must have a joyful family life. It is vital that the worker gets the necessary 8 hours of leisure, their homes are clean and healthy, they get proper transport and there are such safety measures as are necessary to make the mines safe for the workers. But the management seldom thinks of bringing these qualitative changes in. The management has not been able to even provide clean drinking water to the homes of the workers. Electricity supply is simply pathetic and the workers quarters are such that one cannot even use gas cylinder. The state of cleanliness of their colonies is an open secret. Under such inhuman conditions, how can workers increase production?
Biometric attendance is being implemented in Durgapur Steel Plant too, which is predictably inviting protests. By a Circular No. Pers-CF/BARS/2014/508 dated 11th November, 2014 G Sujatha, AGM (Pers-CS), Durgapur Steel Plant, Steel Authority of India Ltd, has made procedure of Biometric Attendance Recording System mandatory with insuring disciplinary actions. Hindustan Steel Workers Union, Durgapur Steel Plant are protesting against “illegal and illegitimate capturing of fingerprints of employees and implementation of “Biometric Attendance Recording System” without any lawful authority and in violation of Article-21 of the Constitution of India and other related statutes.” Their letter dated November 17, 2014 to CEO of Durgapur Steel Plant reads:
The Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) and Delhi University College Karamchari Union (DUCKU) are protesting against the installation and implementation of Bio Metric Attendance system as well.
(Gopal Krishna is member of Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which is campaigning against surveillance technologies since 2010)
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In line with the Supreme Court directives, the coal blocks will now be auctioned and the tender documents are expected to be announced on 22nd December. The actual auction process is expected to commence on 11th February and close by 15th March so that this matter can be set to rest. Earnest work on the blocks will start later, once other matters relating to environment and forest clearances are obtained.
In the meantime, the Coal Ministry has proposed a minimum floor price of Rs100 as reserve price for State and Central government enterprises and Rs150 for the rest, when these coal blocks are put up for auction. A Cabinet note, circulated by the Ministry is likely to be taken up on Wednesday, 10 December 2014. Depending upon the grade of coal, which varies from block to block, the final floor price will be determined.
The lowest grade of coal with a rating of 2,200/2,500 Kcal/Kg is available at about Rs550 per tonne and the highest grade at 6,200/7,000 Kcal/kg is priced at Rs5,000 per tonne.
These are based on the Coal India notified price for different types/grades of fuel.
Generally, the power sector uses 5,900 Kcal/kg (gross caloric value) and it is sold around Rs2,590/2,800.
Earlier, 74 blocks were earmarked for auction, but now, 18 more have been added to make a total of 92, as per Coal Secretary, Anil Swarup. The mining plan for these 18 blocks has been approved and they have the potential to produce 100 million tonnes per year. However, environment clearance is not there yet.
The tender document is likely to be released on 22nd December and the auctions are scheduled to start on 11th February and be completed by 15th March 2015. Mines would be allotted on a priority basis to specified end users; out of 92 blocks in the first phase, 57 would be given to power sector. Of these 34 may be earmarked for Central and State power sector undertakings.
While attending a workshop organized by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce of India (FICCI), Anil Swarup was speaking to the press when he is reported to have made these statements. He conveyed that the Ministry was also working on setting up an electronic platform where, he said, "we will house all the problems and then take it up with the stakeholders". This platform is likely to be operative in the next ten days.
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Several countries like the US, Australia have the expertise in this area, and it may be worthwhile for the successful bidder to invite qualified consultants/partners to assist them to tap CBM which will go waste, otherwise!
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce. He was also associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts; and later to the US.)