Following an assurance by Urban Development Minister S. Suresh Kumar to implement minimum wages for contract pourakarmikas, the Karnataka State Corporation, Municipality, Town Municipality Pourakarmika Union called off its protest on Thursday.
Nearly 8,000 contract pourakarmikas, under the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), struck work in the city and hundreds staged a protest at Freedom Park here.
Hunger strike too
Veerabhadra Chennamalla Swami of Nidumamidi Math, who was on hunger strike, also withdrew it after the Minister showed him the Government Order regarding payment of minimum wages to all the contract pourakarmikas across the State.
Union president S. Narayan told The Hindu the government had met all their demands, including extending Employee State Insurance and Provident Fund benefits. This will be applicable to all the 35,000 contract pourakarmikas working under various local bodies in the State. Minimum wages of Rs. 6,600 will be paid with effect from April 1, 2012. The government has also approved the decision of the BBMP's Standing Committee for Public Health to disburse wages to all pourakarmikas through cheques.
During a meeting chaired by the Minister, union representatives urged him to regularise the services of contract pourakarmikas who have been working for the past 15 years. “The Government has directed the BBMP to appoint 4,000 pourakarmikas. Instead, the services of those who have put in more than 15 years may be regularised. The Minister said he would look into it as there were some legal issues,” he said.
He said the Minister had earlier visited the protesters in the afternoon, but went away after initial talks failed. Later, Mr. Suresh Kumar called the representatives for a meeting to the Vidhana Soudha.
The secretaries of the departments of Labour, Finance, Legal and Urban Development, and Commissioner of the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) attended the meeting.
A hard life
The government's promise is a relief to pourakarmikas. S.S. Oblis, a garbage rickshaw driver, said after paying Rs. 2,000 as rent, he is left with just Rs. 500 to provide for his family. “How can anyone be expected to survive on just Rs. 500? I cannot even send my children to school. I have an outstanding loan and I cannot even pay the interest,” he lamented.
Gandhiamma, a contract pourakarmika, alleged garbage contractors take away part of whatever little they get for their backbreaking work.
Kumuda, from Horamavu, was bitter about the working conditions, pointing out that neither the BBMP nor the contractors provide them with gloves, gumboots and brooms.