Most of them were not aware of what the three-day strike was for

On Saturday morning, when the city’s pourakarmikas returned to work after a three-day strike, not only did they have to struggle with the rotting mounds of garbage, mixed with slush, but they also had to face irate residents, who questioned them about their protest.

Surprisingly, many of them did not know the reason for the strike, or for that matter, what led to its withdrawal.

When asked if she knew that her unions were protesting the fact that engineers had been booked under criminal cases, Suvarnalatha (35), a contract pourakarmika, said she did not even know who the engineers were. “We report to our contractor, and he told us that there was no work,” she said.

It took her three extra hours to clean up the mess, which had collected since Wednesday, having to scrape it off the road in some places. Another contract worker, Kalyani, who works in HVR Layout, said she too did not know what the strike was for. “When we went to work, they simply told us to go home. No questions.”

Irony

The irony of this “strike” was that the contractors, who pay these workers a pittance as monthly salary set their agenda this week.

Anjanamma, a contract pourakarmika in Dasarahalli, said that contractors and Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials do not listen to their grievances. When approached, BBMP officials were quick to palm off the blame on contractors. “Those who are now protesting are just using our names. But they have never supported us.”

For more impact

Then why did the pourakarmikas agree to strike in support of these engineers and employees? It turns out they did not.

Jayamma said she was told that even if they worked, their register would not be signed. This version is corroborated by senior officials and even the Mayor who admitted at a press conference that these workers were coerced into the strike to increase its impact.

The Bangalore Metropolitan Task Force head R.P. Sharma also told The Hindu that the “support” by pourakarmikas was a farce, and that they were being forced not to lift the garbage.