BENGALURU: Hundreds of pourakarmikas gathered at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike head office to protest against non-payment of four months’ salary and raised several other issues here on Friday. Joint Commissioner (health and solid waste management), BBMP, Sarfaraz Khan assured to take steps to resolve their demands, including payment of the pending salaries by Saturday evening.
The workers representatives claim that the biometric system has been ridden with discrepancies, thus creating a situation where pourakarmikas who turn up for work every day were marked absent. They also claim that the State government and BBMP arbitrarily decided to assign one pourakarmika for 700 residents. The ratio is not enough for the city’s requirements, and has caused widespread fears of layoffs among the workers.
The contractors have allegedly withheld Provident Fund (PF) number of many workers, because of which now they are being told they will lose their job.
Nirmala M, secretary of the BBMP Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha, affiliated to All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), who led the protest, said the issues reflected the casteist mindset of BBMP, as almost all workers are Dalit women.
Khan later said a team of BBMP officials would visit all zonal offices over the next three working days to disburse wages to all workers. He assured that there would be no reduction in the number of workers, and they would be given uniforms, gloves, gum boots, masks, and push carts. Wages would be paid before the 7th of every month, and wage slips will be given to every worker. “In addition, the BBMP has submitted a proposal to include auto-drivers and loaders as pourakarmikas.”
Workers facing daily threats, harassment
Pourakarmikas at the protest revealed how they face continuous threats of being removed. Shankaramma, a worker from Mahadevapura spoke of how they have been denied wages since December 2017, forcing many of the workers out of their rented homes. Meghana, a worker from the eastern part of the city expressed her indignation at the continuous threat of layoffs from BBMP. She said every day they are told people will be removed from work, but never told why or who will be removed. This, she said, causes a lot of stress.
Vanajamma from Banaswadi spoke of how even after the system changed from payment via contractors to direct payment, the way workers are being treated has not changed. Many health inspectors and other officials still harass workers and speak to them with disrespect, she said. In October 2017, a contractor was accused of hurling sexual abuses at pourakarmikas at KR Puram. When workers had asked him for their pending wages, he had allegedly said, "It's in my pants, come and get it."
No salary paid since February in several wards
In ward no. 25 (Horamavu), of 350 workers, only 70 have been paid for January, 2018. None of the workers have been paid from February.
In ward no. 149 (Varthur), of 267 workers, only 50 have received payment for January, 2018 and no one has been paid from February.
In ward no. 26 (Ramamurthy Nagar), of 210 workers, only 70 were paid for January 2018 and none has been paid from February.
Major demands of the pourakarmikas
■ Names of genuine pourakarmikas excluded from the workers’ list must be immediately included in the list
■ FIRs should be registered against ‘ghost workers’ and the BBMP officials concerned
■ BBMP must issue strict instructions to officers and Health Inspectors to not abuse or threaten workers with termination
■ BBMP must implement the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013
■ The sweeper to population
ratio should be reduced from 1:700 to 1:500