By Vanshika Sood
The Punjab National Bank – Nirav Modi scam has left thousands of employees of various companies owned by the billionaire diamond jeweler and Mehul Choksi stranded, unemployed and helpless. Workers who’ve dedicated over a decade of their lives to Modi and Choksi’s companies Gitanjali Gems and its various subsidiaries are now struggling to make ends meet, to pay their rent or to collect money for their loved one’s medical treatment.
Let’s listen in to the unheard voices of employees of the Gitanjali group in Mumbai who are living a nightmare in the wake of the PNB- Nirav Modi & Mehul Choksi fraud:
“My Kids Called and Asked About Their Fees, I Had No Answer”
Sachin Talvi, 36 yrs, Assistant Manager, Gitanjali Gems
“My life was smooth, yes, I wasn’t rich but I could provide a decent living to my family. I had heard about people losing jobs but never thought this will come on me. My name is Sachin Talvi, I have worked with Gitanjali Gems for 14 years. I have never been so clueless because at this point I do not know whether Gem Plus has shut down, or not.”
“After working here for 14 years, I stand here helpless totally unknown about the conditions of the company. I have dues with the company for the past 4 years, my PF, gratuity, right now it is all a question mark. I come to office everyday, punch my card and sit here, without knowing if I will get money for this or not. Even if I want to give my resignation, I don’t know whom to give it to as all the seniors of the company, even the HR has stopped coming to the office.”
“Questions like how do I find another job? How do I pay for my living and my families living? Where do I give my rent from? Where do I afford my food from? All these questions keep circling in my head and the only answer I have is, I don’t know. I live on rent in Mumbai, my family is based in Uttar Pradesh, I have to pay my rent, then send money to my kids and my wife back in village. I can’t tell them that I have lost my job as I am the only earning hand in my family. They see it on news but I keep assuring them that all is fine and in my control but it is not.”
“The other day my kids called me and asked about the fees, I had no answer, my wife wants money for basic needs of the house from where do I send it from, as I have nothing for me. I served this company with full loyalty, I had not even touched my PF (Provident Fund) for a long time. I don’t know where to go or who to speak to.”
“We are 4000 employees who have been stranded suddenly, the seniors have found out their ways and have money to survive but people like us are regularly coming to the office, in hope to getting our dues. Wherever I am going, they ask me to join with lesser salary as soon as they know I am working with Gitanjali. My situation is so pathetic that I can’t even call myself an employee.”
“I Haven’t Eaten Anything For the Last 3 Days”
Praveen Das, 32 yrs, Sales Person, Gem Plus
“There is no big story I can share because I have nothing left. It came as a shock to us because within a matter of half an hour there was raid in our office and we were asked to leave the office by 2 PM. We came the next day and the following day but there was no one to answer or even tell us what has happened.”
“Then the following day our General Manger told us that we won’t get anything by coming here and we should start hunting from some other jobs. I haven’t eaten anything in the last 3 days because I am so tensed about the expenses and getting another job.”
“Everyday we go somewhere and protest, but no one listens to us as we are not very well to do. 7 years back I shifted to Mumbai with a dream of supporting my family. People do not want to give us a job, as if we are at fault or we stole the bank’s money. I am an innocent employee who worked at a salary of Rs 14,000 a month. Wherever I go for a job interview, they ask me to come later. I want them to understand that I do not have the time to come later. Due to unavailability of jobs in Kolkata, I shifted to Mumbai, leaving behind my mother, my wife and my nine-month-old baby.”
“The ones who have played the dirty game are happy in a foreign land but people like me who worked 10 hours a day are the ones suffering. The HR manager is saying that we can put down our resignation, that is the only way we can get our PF.”
“Yesterday, I was thrown out of 4 companies and even if I work on contract it won’t help me as one day contract is there the next day it is not. My wife who lives in Kolkata is pregnant, I cannot tell her that I don’t have a job.”
“I Just Fear the Day When I Won’t Have Food to Feed My Children”
Diya Gowade, 37 yrs, Manager, Gitanjali Plus
“I stay in Mumbai with my kids. We have taken a loan for my son’s education and the city is so expensive that we cannot manage with only one earning hand in the family. It has been a week and I have tried for a job in at least 6 companies, they all have offered me a job with lesser salary and more working hours. Here the working hours were fixed.”
“I cannot stay out of the house the whole day finding jobs as there is no one to take care of my kids. Two companies have literally thrown me out of there premises out as I am associated with Gitanjali.”
“There is no one in the office and everything is locked. Everyday I wake up with an expectation of hearing good news but nobody cares about us. The company is shut, the seniors are not there, I have applied to a job at at least 20 places, rejection is all I have faced. These people or the government doesn’t understand that we are the people who have no savings on us, we eat on what we earn, I just fear the day when I won’t have food to feed my children.”
“My Landlord Will Throw Me Out, Where Will I Go With My Family?”
Shashi Kumar Chaudhary, 42 yrs, Gem Plus
“I have been working in Gem Plus for the past 2 years. I just have my January salary, February is about to end and I don’t know what I will do for the next month. I just had an operation and was on a leave for three months, the company did not give me even a single penny for those three months and I am in deep crisis. There was no notice given before the shutdown of the company.”
“If I don’t pay my rent the landlord will throw me out, and where will I go with my family, I don’t know. Everyday when I go back home, my wife and kids ask me about the situation, I cannot tell them that I sat idle the whole day or was in a protest against the company because that is not what is going to generate money.”
“I cannot even think of buying a chocolate for my kids as I feel it is an extra expense. It has been one week that we have been coming everyday to the same place without a purpose. I haven’t slept or eaten properly since a week and same is with my family. After becoming a father I feel I should be helping my kids with theie problems but in my case they help me face it. If I break, they will also break. I had taken a loan for my operation, where do I pay it back from? All the questions are unanswered.”
“Everyone Is Talking About PNB and Nirav Modi, But What About Us?”
Sipum Surjay, 37 yrs old, Manager Quality Control, Nakshtara Gitanjali
“9 years in Gitanjali, I am helpless now. My mother just had her operation and is suffering from breast cancer and on the other hand I have a 9 month old baby. I have taken a loan from my relatives for my mother’s treatment. Leave paying back the loan, I can’t even pay for her medicines at this point.”
“We are those people who are hand-to-mouth and sadly no one cares about us, everyone is talking about Punjab National Bank and Nirav Modi but what about us. The government is not even looking at us, the senior staff is nowhere to be seen.”
“We are not the people who own lands or jewellery, we are the people who get up everyday to earn a basic living and now that source is gone we don’t know what to do. The office is shut, even the guards don’t come now. I have been working here for 9 years, there hasn’t been much of a salary hike but whatever I got I managed in it. The money from PF which I thought is safe and can be used in the time of need, now is not there. Who do I approach?”
“A basic salary of 2 months should have been given, but in a few hours everything changed for us. I am not very educated, in this world full of competition, where and what will I do, I don’t know. I can’t let my mother die, I had never thought a time will come where I can’t afford basic medicines for her.”
“I Never Thought I Would Lose My Job In Just a Few Seconds”
Yogesh Shah (44 yrs), Sushant Talpade (30 yrs), and Madhukar Yogi (43 yrs)
Yogesh, Sushant and Madhukar, all three employees of Gitanjali are speech and hearing impaired. The three of them have been working with Gitanjali Gems for over 9 years now. They come to the office to ask their fellow employees about the current situation. Though, they cannot speak or hear, they still stand outside the office everyday with their colleagues to protest against the way Gitanjali employees are being treated.
Yogesh, Sushant and Madhukar have been working as a tag makers in the company and haven’t got any increment in the past three years. Yogesh has only one question to ask – what should he do now?
The agony they went through as differently-abled, their struggle to stand on their feet and support their family seems to have no meaning now. Madhukar says he had never thought that he would lose his job in just a few seconds. Considering his disability, Madhukar had faced rejections and was working on a basic salary but was happy with what he had.
These three men are married and have no place to work now as all they know is attaching tags to the jewelry. Yogesh, Sushant, and Madhukar come to office in the hope of some positive news, struggling between protests, the media and no answers from their higher authorities, they lose their hope every single day. And all their colleagues can offer them is sympathy.
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