Sections of pourakarmikas stopping work include street sweepers, drain cleaners, garbage collectors, garbage loaders, and even truck drivers.
Municipal workers in Bengaluru have decided to stop working from 1 July because their demand of making contractual municipal workers a part of the permanent workforce of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has not been met.
The parts of the workforce — locally referred to as pourakarmikas — going on strike could include street sweepers, drain cleaners, garbage collectors, garbage loaders, and even truck drivers.
The decision to go on strike has been taken by the unions of these workers.
Entitlement to paid maternity leave, health insurance, and pension are a few of their demands from the social security aspect.
The inordinate delay of monthly payments and “continued exploitation” at the hands of contractors are also among the underlying reasons for the move.
As per BBMP Pourakarmikara Sanghatane president Nirmala M, pourakarmikas have decided to go on strike from 1 July against the “inhuman” working conditions of the BBMP.
Referring to the contract-based system in which a majority of pourakarmikas currently work, Nirmala M told South First, “The contract system is state-sponsored slavery. For a long time have we remained deprived of basic needs with an uncertain future.”
As per unions, there are around 50,000 sanitation workers in the state, of whom 4,800 are permanent employees. Bengaluru has 18,000 pourakarmikas.
According to Maithreyi Krishnan of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), all pourakarmikas will strike work and hold an indefinite demonstration from 1 July in front of the Deputy Commissioners’ offices in all districts of Karnataka.
She explained, “Pourakarmikas have been working for several decades under highly exploitative conditions for seven days a week and 365 days a year. Being primarily women and Dalit, they face the triple oppression of caste, class, and gender. So, they have decided to stand against the working conditions with their demands of permanency and secure working conditions.”
Unions have also claimed that promises made by BBMP officials for the welfare of pourakarmikas remain ignored and unfulfilled.
The recent one to join the list of such promises was the Suvidha Cabin.
As per Saeed Mujib, a member of the Centre for India Trade Unions (CITU), the BBMP declared it would build special resting centres called Suvidha Cabins for its workers, but the progress is far from satisfactory.
In January, the BBMP announced it would build 221 such restrooms for pourakarmikas within six months, with an outlay of ₹18.31 crore.
Each Suvidha Cabin would have facilities like toilets for both men and women, changing room, a dining space, drinking water, first-aid facilities, and phone chargers.
Five months later, only 68 Suvidha Cabins have been constructed — less than a third of the number promised.
Nirmala M told South First, “The workers are also not aware of the location of the constructed Suvidha Cabins.”
It is the second deadline missed by the civic body. The BBMP initially planned to construct the Suvidha Cabins in 2019, but it did not happen then.