On October 25th 2017, hundreds of contract powrakarmikas, under the BBMP Contract Powrakarmikara Union ® affiliated with the All India Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) held a protest against the gruesome attack and sexual harassment on Dalit women contract powrakarmikas in K.R. Puram (Ward No. 55) by the contractor, Nagesh and his henchmen and the inaction and apathy of the BBMP on the same.
The protest was also to highlight the failure of the BBMP to remove the contract system and implement direct payment of wages to workers, despite the orders of the State Government to do so, which has put the workers at serious risk and at the receiving end of sexual, verbal and physical abuse at the hands of the contractors and their henchmen.
Mayor Sampath Raj came to the protest and heard the testimonies and complaints of the workers.
Anjamma from Ward No. 39 spoke of how she and Shivamma were attacked, assaulted and subject to caste abuse by their contractor Sunil and his henchmen in April, 2017 for having sought the payment of their wages. She highlighted how although an FIR was registered against both go them, no chargesheet had been filed and the BBMP had also not taken any action against the contractors.
Devi from K.R. Puram spoke of the heinous attack against them by their contractor Nagesh. They spoke of how on October 12th, 2017 when they asked for their wages, not having paid for three months, the contractor Nagesh told them to take their due wages from inside his pants, and threatened to rape them if any of them made any complaints against him. She also spoke of how thereafter again on October 19th, 2017, the said contractor, having learnt of the filing of the complaint, rounded up the 37 powrakarmikas and assaulted two of them, including her with iron rods causing injuries to them and threatened to shove the rod inside their vagina till it came out of their mouth. The contractor also went on to hurl casteist abuses at the women, and stripped his pant off publicly. She said that a complaint has been lodged with the Sexual Harassment Committee of the BBMP and yet no action has been taken on it to date.
Rathna from K.R. Puram spoke of how in K.R. Puram, the contractor, Nagesh, paid them only Rs. 5,000 in cash and had confiscated the passbooks and ATM cards of the workers. She spoke of how they were still not paid wages for the month of August and September 2017, and even after the filing of the complaint, they were informed by the representatives of the contractor that they would be paid only Rs. 5,000 in cash.
Nirmala M, General Secretary, BBMP Guttige Powrakarmikara Sangha spoke of how across the city of Bengaluru workers were not paid wages for beyond two months and were being subject to severe harassment by the contractors. She also informed the Mayor that in almost all the wards of Mahadevpura Zone, the contractors had confiscated the ATM cards and bankbooks of the workers and were operating these accounts themselves and paying wages of Rs. 5,000 only to the workers.
Sampath Raj, Mayor, BBMP addressed the powrakarmikas and assured the workers that immediate steps would be taken towards the cancellation of contracts in both Ward No. 39 and Ward No. 55 (K.R. Puram) and blacklisting of the two contracators. He also assured the workers that steps would be taken against BBMP officials who were acting in collusion with contractors especially Ramakrishna, the Health Inspector in Ward No. 55. He assured the workers that he would call for a meeting in order to ensure immediate steps towards direct payment of wages to powrakarmikas and to ensure that the wages to workers would be paid on time. He reiterated that the BBMP is committed to abolishing the contract system and implementing direct payment to the contract powrakarmikas as per the orders of the State Government.
Please also find below ten questions we asked of the government, some of which were answered today, and the rest not answered. Our demands are also pasted below after the questions.
Ten questions to GoK, BBMP and Bangalore City Police
1) Dalit Women Powrakarmikas were first harassed on October 12th and a complaint was filed, but BBMP did not act. The women were harassed again and beaten up on Oct 19th. Why didn’t BBMP take any action to prevent this incident in spite of receiving a complaint? Why has BBMP still not taken any action in this regard?
2) Why did the K.R. Puram Police Station Inspector not register FIR in spite of Social Welfare Department directing him to do so? Why did he not do anything to protect the workers?
3) State Government has issued orders for the abolition of contract system and direct payment of workers, but BBMP continues with contract system. As long as the contract system continues, this harassment will continue. When will it end?
4) Contractors threatened and prevented some Powrakarmikas from coming to work twice in the past 2 months, to ensure contract system continues. No action against contractors, but ESMA invoked against workers! If ESMA is there, it prevents us from raising our voice against injustice. When will ESMA be revoked? What action will be taken against the contractors?
5) In Mahadevapura zone, contractors have confiscated the passbooks and ATM cards of most powrakarmikas. The workers complained several times to BBMP but there is no action yet. Who is responsible for this inaction ?
6) Why did the health inspector concerned not do anything to support the workers but instead supported the contractor Why has there been no action against him?
7) Why has not a single BBMP official or elected representative apologised to the workers for what has happened?
8) There was an earlier incident of assault against powrakarmikas in Peenya in April 2017, when two workers were assaulted by the contractor for seeking wages. What action has BBMP taken against the contractor ?
9) What steps will BBMP take to ensure that caste discrimination, sexual harassment and violence against Powrakarmikas does not repeat?
10) Are Dalit women not human beings? Are Powrakarmikas not citizens of this country? Why this discrimination and assault?
- Remove the exploitative and abusive contract system and immediately ensure direct payment of wages to all powrakarmikas and regularise the services of all powrakarmikas
- Implement the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, in letter and spirit and conduct an enquiry into the complaints filed by pourakarmikas and create a safe working place for the powrakarmikas
- Immediate cancellation of work order of Nagesh, the contract and blacklist him from contract in any work in the State
- Conduct a speedy investigation into the complaints, arrest the accused and ensure their conviction.
- Ensure immediate payment of pending wages to powrakarmikas
- Inquiry must be conducted as to how the contractor Nagesh was chosen as the contractor and had the work order issued to him and action should be taken against all those involved in getting him the work order despite his criminal background.
- BBMP must publicly apologise for its inaction which has resulted in the assault and exploitation of the powrakarmikas
- Revoke the Essential Services Maintenance Act imposed against powrakarmikas
This press note was sent to Citizen Matters by the BBMP Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha and published here with minimal editing under Message Forward section, meant for nonprofit public interest messages.
We are with the PKs, they are the real cleaners of the city and not the corporator or MLA or MP or IAS/KAS officers. While demands mentioned above are genuine and need redressal, it is surprising why PKs are not demanding modern implements and equipments to be supplied for making their working environment healthy and safe. They are handling even dead rats, bandicoots etc.that are unhealthy. They must be provided proper living conditions, financial benefits like EPF, insurance, etc., and free medical treatment. Most of them use cement bags or even large canvases stitched with cement bags to collect garbage from households that are of mixed variety. PKs must teach lessons to these problem creators at street level.