Rs 4000 a month: Salary of a contract street sweeper in Bengaluru!

Over 1000 contract pourakarmikas working in eight zones of BBMP and many supporters gathered on Wednesday at the BBMP head office protesting against the failure of the contractors to pay them monthly wages and BBMPs indifferent attitude in ensuring that powrakarmikas get paid the minimum wages and wages on time.

Pourakarmikas from Sunkadakatte area have not been paid since four months. Some of them have not paid their rent and have been thrown out of their rented accommodation by their house owners. In Mathikere, powrakarmikas are being paid only Rs 4,000 a month which is far less than even the earlier  minimum wage which was fixed in 2012!

Pic courtesy: Hari Adivarekar

Most of the contract pourakarmikas are not given the benefits of ESI and PF as mandated under the law. These are just a few examples of how the rich and corrupt contractors are stealing the wages of the poor!

The reasons for the protest were:

• DELAYED WAGE PAYMENTS:They have not been paid their wages for a period of 2 to 4 months
• LOWER THAN MINIMUM WAGES: They get paid less than official minimum wage of Rs. 6,553. BBMP gives almost Rs. 30 crores every month for solid waste management to several contractors. However the powrakarmikas who actually do the work not even get paid their monthly wages.
• NO HOLIDAYS: They work seven days a week, 365 days a year, without a single days rest. Irrespective of illness or death or celebration in the family, irrespective of rain, sun or cold, they have to work.
• HAZARDOUS WORK: They are prone to several illnesses and occupational health hazards due to the dangerous nature of their work and are not provided any safety equipment.
• The women powrakarmikas are harassed verbally and sometimes physically from the contractors’ men.

The pourakarmikas had to wait for several hours before the BBMP Commissioner Shri Lakshminarayana met with a delegation and held detailed discussions with them. The pourakarmikas vented their anger at the inhuman attitude of the BBMP. They pointed out to the commissioner that as per the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition)Act 1970, even though the contractor does not pay the wages to contract staff (the powrakarmikas) it is the duty of the principal employer (BBMP) to pay the powrakarmikas and they can then recover the amount from the contractor.

Pic courtesy: Hari Adivarekar

Subsequently the commissioner came out and addressed the gathering and assured the following.

1)That a notice will be sent to all the contractors saying that the statutorily fixed minimum wage is Rs 8558 a month. After deductions for PF and ESI, the powrakarmikas need to be paid Rs 6553/month take home salary.

2)The contractors will be directed to pay the notified minbimum wages on time and also pay all the dues including arrears immediately, failing which the BBMP will make good the payments and recover the same from the contractor besides taking further co-oercive action against them including blacklisting them.

He also promised a detailed meeting with the union representatives wihin the next week to discuss the other demands of the pourakarmikas. He said written orders will be issued to ensure the above assurances are carried out. Based on the Commissioners assurance, the protest was called off.

The pourakarmikas vowed to resume with the struggle in case the demands are not acted upon soon.

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About Clifton D'rozario 4 Articles
The author is a Bengaluru-based advocate with Manthan Law