Colleagues stage protest with body, accuse BBMP of neglect

A section of pourkarmikas, livid over the death of a colleague of snakebite, protested with his body in front of the Herohalli sub-division office of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) on Wednesday.

Narasimhaiah (55) was bitten by a snake on Tuesday at Anjana Nagar on Magadi Road. Though he was rushed to a nearby hospital, he died because of alleged lack of effective treatment.

Even more than 12 hours later, Narasimhaiah's family had received no help from either the garbage contractor who had hired him or the principal employer, the BBMP.

The incensed pourakarmikas protested with the body, raising slogans and demanding justice for the family as well as thousands of pourakarmikas across the city.

‘No respect from public'

Narasimhaiah is survived by his four children, who live on the outskirts of the city. His son, Hanumantha, was there along with the other family members. Narasamma, Narasimhaiah's sister, lamented that pourakarmikas got no respect from either citizens or authorities for their back-breaking work.

“We put our lives at risk in trying to keep the city clean. Today my brother died. It may be somebody else's brother or even me tomorrow.”

She said her brother was bitten by the snake when he went to clear a drain.

Speaking of occupational hazards, Mangalamma, a pourakarmika, said: “There have been several instances when we have been bitten by dogs and wounded by glass pieces. When such things happen, we only get Rs. 1,000 as compensation.”

No medical security

According to Gowri, secretary of BBMP Contract Labour Union, the pourakarmikas neither have any medical security or ESI (Employees' State Insurance) benefits. They get peanuts even though the notified minimum wage is Rs. 6,000. “On an average, the contract pourakarmikas get just Rs. 2,000 a month from the garbage contractors.”

Several protests by the pourakarmikas demanding minimum wages have not moved the authorities. “They are not helping us. [In Narasimhaiah's case,] the garbage contractors are trying to hush it up and the police are not heeding our complaint,” alleged Ms. Gowri.

Ignored by BBMP

The protestors waited in vain for BBMP officials to give them a hearing. Later, garbage contractor Chandrappa met them and agreed to take responsibility for Narasimhaiah's death.

When contacted, Mayor D. Venkatesh Murthy said that he had asked BBMP officials to look into it. “After the report is submitted, we can take a call on the compensation and other benefits. As Narasimhaiah had worked only for three months, he was not eligible for ESI. The contractor who employed him is liable to [compensate] his family,” he said.

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