Date: 20th Oct, 2021


Mr. Arvind Kejriwal,

Hon’ble Chief Minister,

Government of NCT of Delhi,

New Secretariat, I.P. Estate, Delhi

Sub: Enactment of Delhi Mathadi Act to ensure justice to the lakhs of headload workers and waste pickers of Delhi – Reg

Dear Mr. Kejriwal, 

We write to you with a deep sense of concern regarding the rights and long-standing issues of headload workers and waste pickers in Delhi and hope your Government will address these in right earnest. We also express our full support to the rally that more than 500 workers are organizing today from Rajghat to New Secretariat; where we hope your Govt’s representatives would duly visit and assure the workers in writing, of prompt action; especially with regard to the demand for enactment of the Delhi Mathadi Act and social security benefits.

It is indeed unacceptable that successive Delhi Governments have failed to ensure adequate working conditions for headload workers and waste pickers in the state, enact pertinent legislation and implement social security schemes. Even though they form the backbone of the supply chain and ensure the smooth supply of goods, through back-breaking work, no substantive measures have been taken by any of the Delhi Governments for their welfare. In fact, in response to an RTI application, the Department of Labour, GNCTD was compelled to admit that it has no scheme for the welfare of these workers, and has not even conducted a survey to understand their requirements and enumerate them!

You would concur that headload workers and waste pickers have been working under deplorable conditions and fighting persistent negligence by the successive Governments of NCT of Delhi. These workers must make themselves available round the clock, as there are no fixed working hours. There is no paid leave, and no safety measures exist at their workplaces. They are forced to frequently carry heavy loads over 80-80, 100-100 & 120 kg, which adversely affect their health, risks their safety, and endangers their life. In short, there is no employment security and social security.

The workers have constantly been demanding for enactment of the Delhi Mathadi Act, premised on the Mathadi self-sustainable model already successfully implemented in Maharashtra for over fifty years, and running on self-generated funds. The Director General Labour Welfare (DGLW), the Govt. of India has issued a letter to the Labour Secretary of Delhi to ensure the enactment of the Delhi Mathadi Act, but this is not yet implemented.

There are further violations of existing labour laws, such as the Delhi Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 1998, according to which the workers are entitled to G-category licences and badges. These have not been implemented. Schemes like the Delhi Kisan Evam Market Yard Mazdoor Jeevan Suraksha Yojna (2015) has also not been implemented and benefited the workers over the last three and a half years. The Govt. of Delhi has also failed to comply with the ILO Convention 127, ratified by India, which limits the maximum weight which can be handled/carried manually by an adult male worker to 50 kgs. Despite all those challenges, they have no other option except to carry-out the headload work to earn bread and butter for their dependents.

It is also reported that the waste pickers often face violence, exploitation and even caste-discrimination from the police, municipal authorities.

It is very disappointing that despite all the efforts and struggles of the workers for over six and a half years, their demands have not yet been fulfilled. We are very concerned about such anti-worker attitudes and discriminatory policies of the Government of NCT of Delhi. It is also contrary to your and your party’s public position to place the welfare of the ‘aam aadmi’ first. In many ways, these hamal mazdoors and waste pickers are the ‘antim aadmis’, who carry the burden of our society and are therefore entitled to all rights, with dignity, on priority.

National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) strongly believes that such pathetic conditions of many very hard-working headload workers are unacceptable to any civilized society. We demand that your Govt. puts an end to such systemic injustices and ensures basic citizenship rights to the workers, honouring their valuable contributions to the economy and to the society. NAPM stands in solidarity with all the below-mentioned just and reasonable demands of the workers to:

  1. Enact the Delhi Mathadi Act to ensure employment security and comprehensive social security to the workers.
  2. Provide the workers with important social security benefits like provident fund (PF), bonus, gratuity, medical treatment, medical benefit, maternity benefit, accident insurance and life insurance etc. by bringing them under the ambit of ESI.
  3. Provide monthly pensions to all senior Palledars and garbage workers above the age of sixty years or their widows.
  1. Provide food security and nutrition under the Right to Food Act.
  1. Provide adequate housing to Palledars and garbage workers.

We urge you to kindly respect their demands and enact the Delhi Mathadi Law and ensure their legitimate entitlements of licences and badges without any further delay.

Thanking you,

Yours sincerely,

Arundhati Dhuru, Aysha Khan, Gabriele Dietrich, Maj Gen S.G. Vombatkere (Retd), Meera Sanghamitra, Rajkumar Sinha, Suhas Kolhekar, Vimalbhai and others

On behalf of

National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) (i) Sh. Manish Sisodia, Hon’ble Deputy C.M. and Labour Minister, Govt. of NCT of Delhi

            (ii) Labour Secretary, Dept. of Labour, Govt. of NCT of Delhi

NAPM India