Karnataka sanitation workers strike seeking permanent jobs, better working conditions – The Indian Express

The protests by nearly 5,000 pourakarmikas, or sanitation workers, from the 198 wards in the Bengaluru corporation continued their stir on Saturday at Freedom Park demanding the government make them permanent employees with a fixed salary. Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai said that he will address the problems on ‘humanitarian grounds’. “We have decided to form a legislature panel. In principle we have agreed to recruitment, in another three months, how it has to be rolled out will be decided,” he said
Protesting sanitation workers, employed on a contract basis on a monthly salary of Rs 14,000, boycotted work in Bengaluru as well other parts of Karnataka.
KV Oblesh, convener of the Karnataka Safaikarmachari Kaval Samithi, alleged the sanitation workers were not provided basic facilities like gloves, drinking water and access to toilets and that they worked in inhuman conditions. “A lot of state governments have come and gone, but the state of the pourakarmikas has remained the same. All we are asking is to make us permanent workers and provide us the basic rights. The salary of Rs 14,000 is good for nothing and does not take care of our day to day needs, especially when prices of household essentials are increasing every day. When we become permanent staff, the fixed salary of Rs 33,000-Rs 40,000 will give us relief. All pourakarmikas across the state will not go to work until our demands are met,” said Oblesh.
Trade unions such as the All India Trade Union Congress and sanitation workers’ organisations joined the protest.
Sanitation workers also complain that there are “unjustified” deductions from their salaries. Rajathi, a sanitation worker at Johnson Market, said, “We are not provided gloves and basic safety equipment. Even for using a toilet we have to travel to Shantinagar, nearly a kilometre away… Moreover, they deduct Rs 1,000, Rs 2,000 and sometimes even more, claiming we did not turn up for work.”
Another sanitation worker, Bheemanna, a father of four who works in the Vasanthnagar ward, said, “Forget the school fees, I cannot even buy notebooks for my children. My wife and I have been working for nearly seven years and we are not able to support our family with a salary of Rs 14,000. Half of the money goes to rent and the other half is barely enough to run the family of six.”
The sanitation workers have been protesting for several years now. In March 2017, however, the Congress government led by Siddaramiah removed the contract system and brought them under a direct payment system. But under the Special Recruitment Rules for Pourakarmikas 2017, only those who sweep the streets are recognised as pourakarmikas. Workers involved in cleaning drains and solid waste management as well as garbage collectors, truck drivers, loaders and helpers thus continue to be contractual workers.
There are 41,373 sanitation workers in the state—12,387 of them are loaders or cleaners and 752 of them underground drainage helpers. Only 26,349 pourakarmikas are under the direct payment system. Of these sanitation workers, 16,516 work in the Bengaluru corporation. As many as 11,916 loaders and cleaners continue to be contractual employees, with 10,200 of them working for the corporation.
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