BBMP computer operators fight for their unpaid wages

Around 800 BBMP computer operators have not been getting their salaries on time and haven’t seen their pay cheques for the last few months. 400 employees from this sector have now formed a employees union and protested in front of the BBMP office on July 10th. They submitted a memorandum to N Jayaram, BBMP Additional Commissioner (Administration).

Currently, this workers’ union is trying to form zonal committees and take up more localised issues. The workforce which drives most of the BBMP’s computerised operations are the contract labourers, handled by government companies of the likes of KEONICS (Karnataka State Electronics Development Corporation Limited).

Computer operators protesting in front of BBMP office. Pic: Nirmal Kumar

These workers who have basic computer qualifications, get paid an average of Rs 5000 a month. They are not demanding anything unreasonable – wages for the work they have already been doing and a reliable remittance with deserving benefits.

Adding to this fragile situation is the uncertainty of their contract itself and missing employee benefits of any kind. This is a recipe for distress for sure. For, in most cases it is the family breadwinner trying to make a living.

Ward number 72′s BBMP office telephone operator Saraswathi (name changed by request) has a heart rending episode which encapsulates the plight of these workers. She works as a telephone operator with added responsibilities of all the office tasks and for the last ten months has not been paid a penny. “I have mortgaged all my jewels, to run my house, and there is no respite to this apathy”, she says.

When asked why she has still hasn’t sought another job she says is hopeful things would alleviate, “I have seen to it that my file moves through the bureaucracy and I cannot let go the hard work of these many months – sometime soon I will be paid and that might help me get out of all my debt.”

“Pharaohs built the pyramids, Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal, likewise Information and Technology is building the Bruhat Bengaluru”: One commonality in these claims is the approval given to making the workers oblivious, and projecting these mega accomplishments as simply grand individual feats.

It is not about one or two employees like Saraswathi. But the entire workforce is being subjected to this apathy. Officials do not heed individual requests, like in all other realms of employment. With the intervention of a few committed individuals, these workers are now trying to bargain collectively, hoping that this would find them respite.

The prefix ‘Bruhat’ (grand, massive), to the previously BMP – Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (city corporation) does project the aspiration of what the city wants to be, and some might well argue this has even come true.

Apart from all the growth the IT revolution has caused in Bangalore – SEZ’s, IT parks, multi-storeyed apartments, supermarkets, better roads, plenty of cars, branded merchandise, fast food centres, ‘bottled’ drinking water and all the rest of it, it also silently has multiplied the cost of living in the city to many great extents – making it one of the costliest cities in India to survive in.

We are talking here of hundreds of households getting trampled under the price-rise and high cost of living in Bangalore. If BBMP shows apathy, it is we the people who have to stand for these workers, amplify their voices and intervene. Urban life might be a cosy affair to some of us, but is a costly disaster to plenty of our own.

There must be something tangible we could all do, as most of us reading this up are part of the driving force behind the IT revolution which has in many ways contributed in making Bengaluru to Bruhat Bengaluru.

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