Only work no payment, civic workers an exploited lot

A pourakarmika collects waste at Indiranagar on Wednesday. DH Photo/Grace Hauck

Thousands of sanitation workers in the city, who are working without minimum safety gear and developing health issues, have also not been paid for several months.

In addition, they also face harassment by contractors.

Following repeated demands by the civic workers, last year in July, the state government abolished the contract system to allow direct payment of wages to workers.

This was done as the earlier system was exploitative in nature allowing the contractors to take away funds allotted for the workers’ salaries.

However, the problem is yet to be solved. The contractors have continued to exploit the workers even after the introduction of the biometric system.

“Everything has not solved after the removal of the contract system. The loaders and the auto tipper drivers are still under the contract system. Hence, they are leaving their job. These contractors are now forcing the women pourakarmikas to do the loading and unloading of the garbage,” said Lekha Adavi, member of BBMP Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha.

“We have complained several times to the BBMP about the harassment by the contractors. But they have failed to act,” she added.

According to the reports, there are around 32,000 sanitation workers. And after the introduction of the biometric system, the BBMP had identified around 15,000 ghost workers.

“The pourakarmikas had organised several protests from January seeking the release of their wages, which are still pending,” Lekha said.

On July 9, a 40-year-old T Subramani, a sanitation worker from Palace Guttahalli, committed suicide by consuming poison reportedly over not getting wages for seven months.

“The sanitation workers are paid around Rs 18,000 salary per month, and also afternoon free meals are provided at the Indira canteens. However, the BBMP is not providing them any safety equipment while dealing with the garbage and cleaning,” complains a pourakarmika.

“We have been asking for mask and gloves from many days. But we are forced to work with bare hands. Forget safety equipment, the civic body has not even provided pushcarts and containers to collect the garbage and also the broomsticks clean the roads,” the worker added.

A senior BBMP officer said: “Even if we give gloves and safety equipment, the workers will not use them as they say they are not comfortable using them.”

When asked about the payments and the harassment by the contractors, another senior BBMP official said that the inside nexus was so strong that they find it extremely difficult to free the pourakarmikas from the clutches of contractors.

The official also said that some of the corporators themselves were contractors, and there was a lot of resistance to root out the problem.

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