Bengaluru

Garbage contractors hold city to ransom again

For the second time in less than a month, garbage contractors in the city went on a flash strike on Saturday, bringing waste clearance to a halt, and sending the civic administration into a tailspin.

Trucks were blocked by protesting villagers around Bellahalli and Mittaganahalli quarry landfills in the city outskirts.

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, who held an emergency review meeting, directed invoking of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). It was put in place by evening, and that seemed to have done the trick. Contractors have now announced that they would resume waste collection from Sunday morning. “The contractors’ strike, second in a month, last time during the Ganesha festival, and the protests by villagers around the quarries instigated by a motivated group, seems to be clearly coordinated as an arm-twisting tactic,” said Ramprasad, a senior civic official managing the crisis.

Dependence on contractors

The protests were against direct payment to pourakarmikas, as announced by the State cabinet recently, which would eliminate the role of contractors and middlemen in garbage management, said BBMP officials.

However, until this is implemented, the BBMP would continue to depend on contractors. It also does not own a fleet of vehicles of its own.

“This is being used as a bargaining chip by contractors. In most cases, councillors and contractors are hand in glove. In one case, a prominent contractor is the relative a Congress minister. This is giving them the strength to push back against the implementation of direct wages,” said an official.

The threat of ESMA seemed to be the most effective tool to “fight back”.

Balasubramanyam, a garbage contractor, said they had not gone on strike and instead had decided to “go off work” as the State government wanted to ensure they didn’t take part in garbage collection.

Later in the day, faced with the threat of ESMA, he said: “It was only a technical issue that we could not collect garbage.”

However, the BBMP Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha, which represents civic workers, said in a statement that there were numerous instances of contractors forcefully stopping pourakarmikas in many wards.

BBMP Commissioner N. Manjunath Prasad said they had already begun making alternative arrangements so that they wouldn’t have to depend on contractors. “We are trying to get 10-wheeler lorries, autos with the aid of self-help groups and others to take over garbage collection and not rely on contractors any more,” he said.

He said while the civic body had given an assurance that garbage wouldn’t dumped in Mittaganahalli, they had managed to convince villagers around Bellahalli about continued dumping of garbage.

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Printable version | Oct 28, 2020 3:01:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/garbage-contractors-hold-city-to-ransom-again/article19744427.ece

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