Adi Dravida women get Rs. 70 per month against the daily minimum of Rs. 235 notified for district

More than a hundred Adi Dravida women who work as sweepers at urban primary health centres of Chennai Corporation get a salary of only Rs. 70 per month.

The Corporation has employed women for the posts of sweepers and scavengers at most of the 90 centres that serve more than 18 lakh poor residents in the city. But their wages have been fixed at Rs. 70 per month against the minimum wage of around Rs. 235 per day notified for sweepers’ posts in Chennai district.

M. Dhanam, who is employed as a sweeper at one of the centres, started work there 22 years ago. Three generations of her family have been employed with the Corporation as sweepers, she says, adding that her children’s education was affected because of the inadequate income. “How can we manage the family with Rs. 70 per month?” she said.

One of her three children, M. Premkumar said, “We had to stay on the centre’s premises for many years because my parents were unable to rent a house. Every night, we remained in fear of higher officials who prevented us from staying there. We were unable to study at night. Now, we have taken a nearby house on rent, thanks to my elder sister’s earnings,” said Premkumar, who is doing his diploma.

Similarly, most of the sweepers’ families in other parts of the city too have been working at the centres for generations. Some of the sweepers have died after years of work without receiving any statutory benefits. Some have left work because of poor health and members of their family have taken over.

S. Madhavi, who was employed as a sweeper last year after her relative left work, said she was yet to get her wages. “I have been working here for more than a year. My husband’s daily wages are sustaining us. I want to educate my daughter and make her a doctor,” she said.

A senior Corporation official said, “We sympathise with these people. But this seems to be only an unauthorised local arrangement by medical officers. As per government orders, employment on daily wage basis or on consolidated pay without specific authorisation of government is banned. However, labour contracts are permitted.  If it is proved that the workers have been working full time, we can give them time scale only with the express authorisation of the government. For part-time work we cannot pay full-time salary. It will amount to wastage of public money.”  

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