To be or not to be Safai Karmacharis

To be or not to be Safai Karmacharis

Manual cleaning: The hell-hole consumes both workers and administrators

To be or not to be Safai Karmacharis

Manual cleaning of the chambers has been banned by the City Municipal Council and both such workers and people who employ them can be subjected to legal action. A month ago, pamphlets were distributed in the city informing the citizens about this decision of the Council.

Yet, there are no takers for the Council’s offer to rent out sucking machines to clean drains.

‘No chance to change’
Safai Karmacharis, meanwhile, express their helplessness with regard to refusing to climb down into the inspection chambers and clean the drains. Many of the Karmacharis are even angry that the accident on Monday, when three workers were killed, asphyxiating in the chambers in Ashoknagar in Kolar Gold Fields, could have been avoided if the temporary move to employ 140 workers for three months was continued.

Ironically, however, many of the Safai Karmacharis have alternative jobs- as painters and even cloth shops in Bangalore. They still drawn into the job by touts who offer them commission to work as inspection chambers cleaners.

There are also allegations that such touts try to pull in the workers telling them they could get noticed by the administrative officer, who would give them various facilities.
The above facts were learnt when this Deccan Herald correspondent visited Telugu Line in Kennedy’s Line, in Kolar Gold Fields, where the three Safai Karmacharis lived.

Temporary arrangement
Speaking on the issue, Prabhu, secretary of the Safai Karmachari Horata Samiti, accused the CMC of not giving them a permanent job. “We are involved in this work since generations, but only some of us have been given alternative jobs. The CMC gave us work for three months, following orders by the Urban Development Minister. But the period ended on October 3.

A procession outside the Deputy Commissioner’s office on October 10, demanding work too did not give results, he rued.

Prasad Kutty, one of the victims, was the president of the Samiti and also Prabhu’s uncle.

Different view
CMC commissioner V Balachandra, however, has a different story to tell. “Various facilities, including loans, were given in 2006-07 under the Ambedkar Development Board, to 2,000 Safai Karmacharis to help them become self-employed. Yet, although aware of the dangers of the job, many of them continue to work as inspection chamber cleaners. How just is this?” he asked.

Refusal of job offer
Balachandra added that three months ago the staff of the Board offered them applications for loans. “The Karmacharis, however, refused, and demanded permanent jobs. Not a single one of them took the applications,” he alleged and added that it would be currently impossible to employ as many as 140 Karmacharis on a permanent basis.

Only some residents, from the Andhra Lane, still work as cleaners of the inspection chambers. Residents of no other area continue this job, he said and accused contractors of baiting them into the dangerous work.

The Deputy Commissioner has assured them of giving them jobs elsewhere. The local legislators too have spoken about organising job fairs. The Karmacharis, however, have turned a deaf ear to all these offers. Balachandra added that their refusal to work in  any other place is a major factor for all the current problems.

Meeting the workers
Another ironical incident was that, a few days prior to the accident, S M Mangala, the Bangarpet tahsildar, had met the Karmacharis. Many had told her no one undertook such work today.

“Now, however, we have had to witness such an accident,” Mangala rued.

The families of the victims have been given Rs 2.10 lakh each as ex gratia
The CMC also filed an affidavit in the High Court that the inspection chamber cleaning job is not undertaken in Kolar Gold Fields City.

The Karmacharis in Telugu Line in Kennedy’s Line, however, argue that the work is very much alive.

The difference in understanding of and application of the 1993 act regarding Safai Karmacharis and the job of cleaning inspection chambers is a major reason behind this tussle.

What they say...
We have been doing the job for over the past ten years. Hence, the CMC should regularise our services. If they can regularise the services of the workers in Block II of Kenadese Lane, why can’t they hire us on permanent basis. They don’t value our services as we clean the septic tank.
Resident of Telugu Lane, KGF

We are not particular about jobs in the CMC. They can hire us for any of the several government departments. But, they are refusing us jobs stating that there are no vacancies in the CMC.

The elected representatives only promise but don’t keep their words. The people of the community are left with no other option but to continue our job.
Painter by profession

We don’t want any other job but cleaning the septic tank. The CMC has to ensure better living and working conditions for us. There is no guarantee that some more in the community will not meet the same end as the three died while cleaning the septic tank. But no leader is willing to work for our cause.
Prabhu, Secretary,
Safai Karmachari Horata Samiti

We have been living here since the time of British. We have no jobs, no facilities.
102-year-old woman

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