BENGALURU : Non-payment of salaries forcing borrowings from friends or relatives or extortionist moneylenders was not a problem exclusive to 40-year-old Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) pourakarmika Subramani, who committed suicide last week after not being paid for seven months.
The Sunday Standard has found that this problem haunts almost all the 45,000 pourakarmikas in Karnataka working under the aegis of various city municipal corporations. Many more could follow Subramani’s example if the problems of non-payment of salary and poor working and living conditions are not resolved soon.
Officials across municipal corporations show apathy towards pourakarmikas and belittle their contribution. But their service is invaluable considering the pathetic state of waste management in the state and the public attitude of casual littering.Lack of salaries, however, is just one part of their problem. The pourakarmikas have to often work without gloves or safety clothing. Also, they cope with anxiety on a daily basis. Under some of the corporations, pourakarmikas nurse a constant fear of being sidelined at work or even of being fired with the contractors’ mafia recruiting their own ‘freelancers’.
Their working and living conditions are miserable too. Women pourakarmikas often complain about lack of clean toilets. Instead of ensuring that all pourkarmikas are paid on time, the state government has come up with a grand plan of sending them on foreign trips to learn how waste is managed there.
The government is sending them in batches to Singapore as part of a study tour. “In the last eight months, we have sent 502 pourakarmikas from various urban local bodies in the state to Singapore. It’s a four-day trip. We are spending around `80,000 per head. We have a target of sending 1,800 pourakarmikas in the next one year,’’ an official from Department of Muncipal Administration told The Sunday Standard. This means a total sum of `14.40 crore for the trips. If the same amount is spent on paying their salaries on time, their welfare, or even ensuring their on-duty safety, things could change.