With the new garbage contracts coming into effect on December 1, the livelihood of contract pourakarmikas appears to be at stake. However, it is only 20 per cent says Mayor D. Venkatesh Murthy
Come December 1, Penchulamma (48), a contract pourakarmika working for the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) for the past six years, may no longer have a job. “I do not know if I will be employed by the new garbage contractors. Until now, I was only worried about whether the salary would be disbursed on time. Now, I am worried about my livelihood itself,” she lamented.
Penchulamma is not alone. With the new garbage contracts coming into effect on December 1, the livelihood of contract pourakarmikas appears to be at stake. The new garbage contractors have made no bones about the fact that they were going to downsize the labour requirement and use more mechanised equipment to keep the city environs clean.
Emanuel M., a pourakarmika supervisor, said that a representative from the new contractors told him that he would soon inspect the area to finalise the number of pourakarmikas required. “Now, 35 pourakarmikas work under my supervision. I have no idea how many will be retained,” he stated.
The contract pourakarmikas’ associations are employing a “wait and watch” policy.
D. Saraswathy, an activist working with the contract pourakarmikas, said that it was imperative that along with bringing in mechanised equipment, the BBMP regularised the employment of these contract workers.
“More than 90 per cent of the contract pourakarmikas are women and a vast majority of them belong to the disadvantaged sections of society. Other than regularising their jobs, the BBMP must provide them with education and an alternative skill that can help them supplement their income,” she said.
S. Balan, president of the BBMP Contract Pourakarmikas Union, feared that 50 per cent of the contract pourakarmikas may lose their jobs. “Earlier, the garbage contracts were controlled by ‘feudal elements’. Now, corporate elements have taken over the system. The new contractors have come in after investing in mechanised infrastructure and will obviously reduce the number of workers,” he said.
He stated that the BBMP must ensure that the new contractors do not violate the recommendations of the I.P.D. Salappa Committee report that states that the civic body must have one pourakarmika for every 500 citizens.
He said that the Bombay High Court had, in a similar case, ruled that the civic body should ensure that all contract workers continue to be employed, even under the new contractors. “On the basis of this case, we have filed a writ petition in the High Court of Karnataka. The case will be listed for hearing soon,” he said.
When contacted, Mayor D. Venkatesh Murthy conceded that 20 per cent of the contract pourakarmikas may lose their jobs.
“The old garbage contractors claim that they have 18,000 contract pourakarmikas on their rolls,” he said. He stated that these contract pourakarmikas may apply to the BBMP, which will soon be recruiting an additional 4,500 pourakarmikas. At present, there are 3,500 pourakarmikas directly employed by the BBMP.
Commissioner Rajneesh Goel was unavailable for comment.
But a senior BBMP official said that as per the implementation plan submitted by the new contractors, they required only 9,000 workers against the existing 17,000. “However, given the responsibility of the contractors, they may choose to employ more hands within the stipulated tender amount,” the official added.