No gloves, no fingerprints, no salary for pourakarmikas

Working without safety gear has resulted in erasure of fingerprints

March 13, 2018 10:25 pm | Updated March 14, 2018 03:54 pm IST

 On Tuesday, councillors, cutting across parties, spoke about the hardship faced by pourakarmikas.

On Tuesday, councillors, cutting across parties, spoke about the hardship faced by pourakarmikas.

Thousands of pourakarmikas in the city working without minimum safety gear, like gloves, seems to be impacting not just their health but also the monthly salary.

A discussion at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) on Tuesday about non-payment of salaries ended up exposing this rampant violation of safety standards. Some councillors argued that pourakarmikas sorting the city’s waste without wearing gloves had resulted in their fingerprints wearing out, and as a result, biometric machines failing to scan them. This had cost them their salaries since the BBMP has made biometric attendance mandatory, and pourakarmikas are required to get their thumb scanned thrice a day.

Manjula, a pourakarmika who works in the Palace Guttahalli area, said gloves were nothing short of a luxury when even functional push carts are difficult to come by. “Once I could not use the cart and had to make do with a discarded plastic mat to collect garbage,” she said.

However, BBMP’s Joint Commissioner (Solid Waste Management and Health) Sarfaraz Khan told The Hindu that the number of cases of biometric scanners not being able to read fingerprints of pourakarmikas were few and it would sorted out soon.

About the lack of gloves, he said pourakarmikas had pointed out that the gloves provided earlier were uncomfortable and new designs will be distributed starting next week.

Non-payment dominates council meet

Bengaluru’s pourakarmikas not getting paid for nearly three months dominated a large part of the discussions at the monthly meeting of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) on Tuesday.

The meeting witnessed councillors, cutting across parties, talking about the hardships of the pourakarmikas, and how following years of hard manual labour, the biometric machines were not picking up the pourakarmikas’ fingerprints.

After Kuvempunagar councillor V.V. Partibarajan said the biometric machines were not able scan the fingerprints, opposition leader Padmanabha Reddy claimed that there were at least 10 such cases in each ward. He claimed this to be the reason for many pourakarmikas not getting paid. “They mostly work with their bare hands and this is probably why reading their fingerprints is difficult. Also, many pourakarmikas have to walk long distances for the biometric attendance. A simpler solution should be put in place, so that the pourakarmikas are not put through more hardship,” he said.

The delay in payment was first raised by Netrapallavi M. of Atturu ward, who said that the Yelahanka zone, which was a model for other zones in solid waste management, is no longer a model. “With the pourakarmikas not getting paid, many are striking work. The zonal commissioner is not responding to our calls,” she said.

Former mayor G. Padmavathi pointed out that even drivers of auto tippers had not been paid their salaries. “Most pourakarmikas are under financial distress. The direct disbursement of their salaries should not be delayed,” she said.

‘Biometrics weeded out bogus names’

But Maithreyi K. from the BBMP Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha maintained that the problem of biometric attendance was not as severe as is being made out by the councillors. The biometric attendance has helped the civic body weed out bogus names. Currently, there are around 22,000 pourakarmikas, as opposed to 32,000 before the biometric system was put in place.

“For the longest time, these same councillors and contractors did not let the BBMP start biometric registration of the pourakarmikas. But on the ground, this is not such a big issue.” She, however, added that the civic body was bound by law to ensure that salaries are disbursed by the 7th of every month. “The delay could be due to the shift to the new system,” she added.

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