Tirupati: The temple administration of TTD may be catering to the thousands of devotees who come to its holy precincts for darshan, but it seems to be doing so at the expense of its own employees' welfare. There are about 10,000 permanent and 13,000 contract employees at TTD who don't have even a recognised union that can represent their woes to the management.
There are only employee associations, such as the TTD staff and workers united front (CITU), TTD staff and workers union (INTUC), TTD BC employees welfare association, SC and ST employees welfare association and others. After prolonged 55 days agitation by the unified associations elections were conducted to TTD Employees Union in 2007 after the intervention of the then Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy government.
And the term of the union's executive body was expired in 2010 April. After that no election was conducted for the recognised union by the TTD management, des-pite there are several requests from the employees associations. The employees of TTD have been facing discrimination regarding their being able to avail of government health schemes. They are not covered by the NTR health scheme, which covers state government employees.
TTD employees have access to a central hospital at the Administration building in Tirupati, which refers chronic cases to the TTD-run Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences.
The employees have no other recourse: they have to depend on Svims, which, they say, has a staff crunch and is unable to attend to patients properly. Some of the employees staged a dharna at Svims recently after the death of an employee, Manohar, allegedly due to negligence.
The employees' associations had made a representation to the earlier trust board, requesting that they be allowed to go to 11 referral hospitals, located in Hyderabad, Chennai, Vellore and Bengaluru for chronic diseases. The trust board gave its approval for this, but the matter has not moved ahead. Employees are currently visiting private hospitals at their own cost. The TTD is also not following its own transfer policy, whereby an employee has to be transferred to another place every two years.
Many have been working at Tirumala and Tirupati for years together. Those working at the Tirumala shrine, many of whom enjoy key positions, such as manning the reception counters, temple duty and room allotment, are unwilling to come down to Tirupati, whereas those working in Tirupati would like to work at the Tirumala temple for at least six months in their entire service period.
According to a union leader, an earlier TTD trust board had agreed to the demand of employees for everyone to get an opportunity to work two years in Tirumala and three in Tirupati, but it was implemented for only for a couple of years.
Also, with the management having stopped new recruitments, existing employees' workload has increased. "I joined TTD 30 years ago as an attendant, and I still occupy the same position with no promotion all this time. Similarly, around 300 attendants, who are qualified with Inter, Degree and PG degree qualifications, are continuing in the same post. The management should utilize our services better by giving us training at the Sri Venkateswara Employees Training Academy," said one of the employees.
"There are about 6,000 to 7,000 vacancies that have been left unfilled for the past several years. The last recruitments were done in 2000 when about 600 vacancies were filled. The work burden has increased with pilgrim inflow having more than doubled in recent years. The management should fill the vacancies at the earliest to ease our burden and implement a health scheme for TTD employees on par with state government employees, who enjoy cashless health card whereby they can get good medicare in corporate hospitals across the state," said M. Nagarjuna, president of the TTD Staff and Workers United Front.