After pourakarmikas protested against this offensive statement, the erring official apologised, and the agitation was called off.

Bengaluru civic workers should eat where it stinks Officials remark sparks outrage
news Protest Tuesday, July 09, 2019 - 12:59

The struggles faced by Bengaluru’s pourakarmikas seem to be never ending. In the most recent show of callousness towards the civic workers, Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) Harshavardhan PN  had an appalling idea to ‘sensitise’ pourakarmikas to the bad odour emanating from garbage near Vengayyana lake – to compel them to eat there.

Protesting against this offensive comment, pourakarmikas agitated near Bengaluru’s KR Market. Following the protest, the offending official apologised. "The protest has been called off and a press release will be sent in the evening with further details of the actions taken," stated lawyer activist Lekha Adavi.  

The IFS officer had stated that pourakarmikas who work at Vengayyana Lake would be made to eat lunch near the entrance to “sensitise them about the bad odour emanating from the garbage in the area,”. He suggested this, ironically, to “make them realise their responsibility to keep the surroundings clean and clear the garbage.”

The officer stated that the women who sort wet and dry waste by hand, would be made to eat lunch near the stench-filled area next to the garbage reasoning that this would make them more inclined to keep the area clean. Incidentally, segregation should not be pourakarmikas’ job – it should be done at source, at the household level. However, these civic workers are compelled to segregate our garbage, because we do not bother to.  

Following this offensive and condescending comment, several pourakarmikas along with members of the All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU) took to protesting on Tuesday at KR Puram. 

“What do you want me to say? They treat us badly and we suffer a lot. It’s not much that we are asking for, just to be treated with some respect,” said 55-year-old Maheshwaramma, a civic worker.

The pourakarmikas go through garbage brought in by the truck load every morning from nearby areas to segregate the waste. They have to endure gruelling conditions along with the foul odours as part of their work. Earlier too, pourakarmikas had protested for months as they had not been paid salaries for months. After this, they were regularised by the BBMP in July 2017 as a result of the state government’s intervention. 

However, with casteist statements and crude remarks such as these being casually made by government officials themselves, it is clear that the rights of these workers are still under threat. The AICCTU has condemned the official’s remarks.

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