Mother At 57, She Wanted Child Care Leave. Sacked Days Before Retirement

Saphla having a healthy baby seemed highly improbable as she had a painful medical history.

New Delhi: For Saphla Devi, her 60th birthday on April 30 is full of mixed emotions. A manager for Railways subsidiary RITES for the last 31 years, Saphla is now also a mother, something that she's wanted to be all her life and only achieved three years ago after 15 bouts of In-vitro Fertilisation treatments. But the need to take care of this little boy has also got her suspended just days before she retires on her birthday. That means that she loses all her retirement benefits.

Saphla got the news of her suspension shortly after the National Commission for Women took up her battle to get Child Care Leave or CCL. On April 5, the women's body told the PSU that they should facilitate her demand to get two years to raise her child. But instead of obliging, they told her she was suspended. One of the reasons they wrote in their letter, "She has applied undue outside pressure in getting her leave sanctioned and has no regard for the work."

As Saphla can't speak to NDTV because she fears that may be held against her citing conduct rules, her husband Brij Lal Bhatia explained their fight with RITES ever since their son Vairaj was born: "The doctors told her to hell with your work, look after your baby." 

At 57, Saphla having a healthy baby had seemed highly improbable especially because she also had a painful medical history, with a pregnancy resulting in a stillborn in 2011. 

"CCL has been granted to women by the 6th Pay Commission and so we wanted it but they just sat on our application. So after eight months, Saphla just went on leave without sanction and that's why they cut off her pay and are now probing her for indiscipline. They say that her cumulative leave over her career adds up to 13 years and so when she claimed CCL which RITES hasn't implemented, it was the last straw," her husband said.

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"How can they say that she took leave for 13 years when we have my pay slips? And why did they then try to lure her back to work in 2015 with the promise of a promotion?" said Mr Bhatia. It's an ugly fight but the NCW has come out in Saphla Devi's support. 

"Law doesn't say if you are old, you can't have a baby. If she is eligible, she must be given leave," NCW chairperson Lalitha Kumaramangalam told NDTV. 

RITES has denied any wrongdoing, and said in a statement: "... the claim of Mrs. Saphla Rani that she has been denied Child Care Leave is not true and justified. She was paid all medical bills related to her medical needs to the tune of around Rs 12 lakh by the company. The company has always been supportive and accommodating in her case. She had availed 3883 days leave since 2003."