BBMP’s shame: unpaid workers

The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike should hang its head in shame for failing to pay the city’s pourakarmikas their salaries for the past five months. Pourakarmikas are among the most exploited of all workers. Many of them are women and poorly paid. Much of their wages are taken away by contractors and other middlemen. At the best of times, therefore, they receive just a fraction of their meagre earnings for the thankless task of cleaning up our roads and lifting our trash. As if that isn’t bad enough, the BBMP regularly fails to pay them salaries for months. In July last year, the Karnataka government had decided to deposit the salaries of pourakarmikas directly into their bank accounts rather than route payment through contractors as the latter system had left the pourakarmikas vulnerable to exploitation and cheating by the contractors. It was to begin direct payment of salaries on January 1. To date, it hasn’t. Several deadlines have come and gone and while some pourakarmikas have received a part of their dues, the majority are yet to be paid. BBMP officials have said that several of those on the rolls are not working on the ground. They are apparently ‘ghost workers,’ whose names contractors have included for obvious reasons. Besides, pourakarmikas have
apparently not provided their biometric details. Pourakarmikas say they weren’t informed about the biometric requirement. Several have complained that their names and details have been dropped because the BBMP wants to downsize the workforce.

None of these issues are impossible to address if the BBMP has the political will. The problem is that several BBMP officials do not want the previous system of payment of salaries through contractors to be stopped as they benefited from it. A part of the salaries being siphoned off by contractors in the old system was allegedly being channelled to BBMP officials. Are those officials now trying to scuttle the move to the new system of direct payment of salaries and effect a return to the old way?

Understandably, pourakarmikas are up in arms. Denied salaries for months, they are unable to buy food or medicines, pay rent or school fees. Those participating in the protests have been threatened with termination of their jobs by ward officials. It was to end their exploitation by contractors that the government and BBMP stepped in to begin direct payment. Their conduct over the past six months indicates that they are more exploitative than those they replaced. Whether paid by contractors or the BBMP, the pourakarmikas must be immediately paid their salaries and arrears in full.  

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BBMP’s shame: unpaid workers

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