The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike's (BBMP) decision to add 4,000 pourakarmikas as permanent employees has caused concern among the rest of civic sanitation workers in Bengaluru.
Since the state government’s decision to change from the contract system to the direct benefit system to pay the pourakarmikas, the BBMP has been in the process of regularising the employee rolls. As a part of the exercise, the BBMP issued a notification in February 2018 inviting applications for regularizing 4,000 of a total of 17,000 pourkarmikas as permanent employees. 2,500 of the 17,000 pourakarmikas had been recruited as permanent employees decades ago.
The civic body is planning to start this process of recruiting at the end of this month after gaining approval from the BBMP Commissioner. The selection of pourakarmikas will be based on seniority and a selection committee of BBMP officials will verify evidence of the pourakarmikas' employment history.
D Randeep, special commissioner (Solid Waste Management) told TNM that the number was limited to 4,000 permanent pourakarmikas three years ago, and that is what they are going with even now. “An analysis was done to see how many pourakarmikas Bengaluru would need and we arrived at the number 4,000. The rest can be outsourced and need not be on the direct rolls,” he said.
However, pourakarmikas say that the move could is discriminatory and could allow the authorities to let go of some workers without proper notice. "The BBMP should make all pourakarmikas permanent employees or continue with the current system of paying their salaries directly. Making only a fraction of the employees permanent will create issues because then you have to differentiate between the work they are doing," said Nirmala M, secretary of the BBMP Guttige Pourakarmikara Sangha, an organisation which is dedicated.
Further, the switch to the direct benefit system of payment did not guarantee job security for pourakarmikas in the city. "We are to be paid directly from this year. We have received our salaries from July but that does not mean we are permanent employees. We need assurance that we won't be removed from a profession we have been working in for years," said Gangamma, a pourakarmika from Banaswadi in the city who has been working for 15 years.
Hundreds of pourakarmikas in the city protested for over six months this year after they were denied their wages by the BBMP. The protests reached a tipping point in July after Subramani, a pourakarmika from Ward 77 - Dattatreya Temple - in the city took his own life after being unpaid for six months. Under the new direct benefit system of payment, hundreds of workers were left out of the BBMP’s records and were only added in July after the BBMP was forced to include them in the payroll.