VIJAYAWADA: All the while, the sanitation staff, who strove hard to make the 12-day Krishna Pushkarams a clean affair, worried if their promised wages for the event will be paid on time, unlike what happened earlier in the case of Godavari Maha Pushkarams. Their worst fears seem to have come true, as the contractors reportedly decided to pay only half the amount as wages, that too, for eight days. As many as 19,600 sanitation workers including agriculture labour were deployed on special duties for the river festival. They reported to the duties in the city on August 9 at the bathing ghats, pushkar nagars and main junctions across the city. They all toiled in three shifts (of 8 hours) a day and a few of them even did double shifts, to make some quick bucks during the mega event. However, none of the staff received the promised daily wage of Rs 400 during the 12-day river fete, which had put them through severe hardships.
When a majority of the contractors, who took up the pushkarams works, demanded the government to release advance payments before the commencement of the grand event, the municipal officials assured to pay 80 per cent of the amount before August 14. Nevertheless, the amount was not released. With the sanitation workers threatening to strike the works, during the pushkarams, few contractors paid them wages from their own pockets.
On Monday, the Vijayawada Municipal Corporation (VMC) sanctioned Rs 6 crore towards payment of wages for the sanitation staff in first phase, against Rs 10 crore, raising many an eyebrow.
According to sources, the contractors who supplied sanitation workers on contract-basis for the river festival decided to pay only half the amount to the latter now and pay the rest later after the VMC clears the bills. “We are being clearly cheated and discriminated. They assured Rs 400 a daily wage for all, irrespective of gender, before the commencement of pushkarams. Now, they say, they will give Rs 200 for males and Rs 175 for females, that too, for just eight days,” lamented K Tirupatamma, a sanitation worker from Amalapuram in EG district.