Pourakarmikas staged a sit-in protest on Thursday morning to mourn the death of their colleague Susheelamma who worked in Banaswadi ward. She was hospitalised after contracting COVID-19 and passed away on Wednesday night.
Shouting slogans, pourakarmikas demanded that the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) immediately provide them with adequate safety gear, timely payment of salaries, and monetary aid.
Narayanamma, a pourakarmika, who works in the same ward as Susheelamma, said, “She was very active. All of a sudden, she was infected by COVID-19 and died. Like her, we too are risking our lives while stepping out to work for the city.”
Though the city is under a partial lockdown, pourakarmikas have been reporting to work every day. Many said that the commute to work is a problem.
“Due to lockdown, there is no public transport. Every day, I leave my home at 5 a.m. and walk from Ramamurthynagar to Kalyan Nagar. By the time we complete work, it is 1 p.m. We clean roads, sweep dried leaves and sometimes even remove dead animals. The BBMP has provided gloves and masks, but we are yet to get sanitisers. Our salaries, too, are not credited on time,” Ms. Narayanamma added.
Another pourakarmika pointed to the lack of facilities, a problem that they have highlighted in previous protests. “There is no drinking water, food or toilet facilities. No one cares about the health of pourakarmikas. We too have family members and children at home. We demand the BBMP deposit at least ₹10,000 in our account so that we can take better care of our families. The BBMP Commissioner should fulfil our demand on humanitarian grounds.”
Pourakarmikas are worried about their exposure to the virus as they also collect waste from people who are COVID-19 positive but under home isolation. Activists have demanded that the civic body ensure proper disposal of bio-waste.