In a month’s time, all the pourakarmikas in the city — on the rolls and on contract — will have to log in their attendance through biometric devices three times a day. This move comes in the wake of several attempts by the BMMP to weed out suspected bogus bills filed by contractors for non-existent pourakarmikas. Civic officials believe that the number could run into a few thousands.
A recent enrolment drive of pourakarmikas through contractors yielded over 29,000 entries with photographs and names. This is in addition to the 2,800 pourakarmikas on the rolls of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).
Officials are sceptical that the city actually has 32,000 pourakarmikas. However, they refuse to quantify the number of bogus entries.
An April 2015 report of the Karnataka State Safai Karmachari Commission alleged that the number of non-existent pourakarmikas is nearly 6,000.
Biometric attendance will also serve another purpose: once it comes into effect, civic officials will know exactly how many pourakarmikas are employed by contractors.
The National Informatics Centre (NIC) has come out with a software for the purpose. It is in the final stages of testing with the civic body. The zonal officers have been asked to buy hand-held finger-print based attendance systems, which will be rolled out in May.
BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad said that they are now auditing the list to identify duplications, which is hard to quantify at this juncture. “This time, we have collected the names along with address and photograph, which will help us weed out duplications. Several contractors work for multiple wards and use the same set of pourakarmikas. We are running programmes on the database to identify duplications,” he explained.
Post that, for the first time BBMP will publish details of all pourakarmikas ward-wise, both in ward offices and on its website, and invite the public to identify bogus rolls.
Beat system to be introduced
Sarfaraz Khan, Joint Commissioner, Solid Waste Management, said that while updating the pourakarmika database with biometric data, the ‘beat’ of each pourakarmika will be entered into the system. Each pourakarmika will be in charge of sweeping a stretch of 500 metres. “This will be like the beat system for police constables. The pourakarmikas and their beats will be made public on the website, which will help us to hold the pourakarmikas accountable for streets that have not been swept,” he said.
Mr. Prasad said that there are complaints about pourakarmikas not logging in the full eight-hour shift. Hence, it was decided to take biometric attendance at 6 a.m. when they report to work, at 10.30 a.m. during their mid-day meal and when they log out of work in the afternoon.
Payment linked to Aadhaar
The payment to pourakarmikas, even those on contract, will be linked Aadhaar once biometric attendance comes into force. The salary accounts of all pourakarmikas would be linked through Aadhaar. Officials hope that this will weed out bogus billing.
Sarfaraz Khan said that Aadhaar linked payments directly into their accounts will also shield pourakarmikas from harassment by contractors. “Most of the pourakarmikas have Aadhaar cards. For those who don’t, we will get one,” Mr. Khan added.
‘Biometric attendance will not solve anything’
The union of pourakarmikas is not all enthused with the proposal of the civic body to introduce biometric attendance to preventing bogus billing.
Clifton D’Rozario of BBMP Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha said that contractors are the root cause of all bogus billing. “The solution is not biometric attendance, but getting rid of all contractors and bringing all those on contract onto the BBMP rolls, in line with the State cabinet decision last year,” he said.
Technology cannot work in isolation, Mr. Clifton argued pointing out that since the biometric attendance systems would be hand-held, it would be easy to get the attendance marked at any place instead of the mustering centre. “Contractors will definitely find ways to outdo any technology that officials introduce,” he said.
Regularising the service of pourakarmikas has been a long-standing demand. BBMP has been non-committal on this demand.