BENGALURU: “I want to help my children get their dream jobs,” said Mahendra R, a sanitation worker from Gowdahalli Gram Panchayat, in Chamarajnagar district, who has been the lone pourakarmika for nine villages, despite there being seven watermen and two bill collectors. His decade as a sanitation worker has given neither respect, nor steady pay.
He is forced to fight for his salary with local officials. “I take a bus from village to village, as the government does not provide compensation for transport cost, and work at three villages each day,” he said, adding that complaints pour in from other villages that he can’t manage to clean in a day.
For several workers, including Mahendra, the prospect of getting fired always looms overhead. Most of them belong to scheduled caste communities. Workers told TNIE that panchayat development officers give them a cold-shouldered response. These local-level officials ask them to go to Bengaluru or approach higher officials for their salaries. Others also confessed that they were asked to join the bill collectors in getting the public to pay a cleanliness cess. In other instances, they said, they were asked to work for whatever sum they get, or are told to quit. “Over the past four years, we have received just `6,000 annually,” said Chandramma, a 60-year-old. This, while the minimum wage is set at Rs 18,870 a month, said Maruthi Manapade, president of Karnataka Grama Panchayat Naukarara Sangha.
The state committee of the forum submitted a petition to Uma Mahadevan, principal secretary, Rural Development & Panchayati Raj Department, demanding that the number of sanitation workers be increased in consonance with the IPD Salappa committee report.
As per government orders on July 23, one sanitation worker is appointed to every 5,000 residents, Manpade said, while IPD Salappa report recommends the ratio to be one worker for every 700 residents. Uma assured a time-bound solution to the problems of the workers.
Ashraf Ul Hassan, director, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj Department, told TNIE that a concerted effort has begun to bring a change in existing salary rules. "By this, the PDO's salaries will be paid only after workers wages are cleared," he said.