All she wanted was her salary, but demanding her rightful pay led to 47-year-old Anjanamma being brutally beaten up by her contractor in Bengaluru.
The atrocity did not end there. Anjanamma alleges that her contractor even hurled casteist abuses at her and humiliated her in the middle of the street.
For 27 years, Anajanamma has been working as a pourakarmika (civic worker) in Dasarahalli’s Chokkasandra. In April 2017, she and her colleague, 42-year-old Shivamma were in dire straits since they had not been paid for their services for three months.
Anjanamma and Shivamma decided to confront their supervisor, Sunil, and the contractor, Raghavendra.
“I told Sunil that we had to pay rent and that my landlord was threatening to evict me. I told him that it was not fair for him to withhold our salaries for so long. I have a husband, three children and a niece to support. I told him this and he, in turn, got angry. He told me that I was being unnecessarily arrogant and that I was not to come to work from the next day,” Anjanamma recounts.
Anjanamma then threatened to go to the police if she was not paid. This enraged the contractor, who began to punch her in her face.
“Sunil held me down and the contractor punched me on my face. When I lifted my arm to cover my face, he started punching my arm. He even punched me on my neck. I was bleeding terribly. Shivamma tried to help me and the two of them beat her up as well,” Anjanamma recounts.
The contractor, Raghavendra, allegedly hurled casteist abuses at her and even told her that she had “no right to speak to him since she was from a lower caste”.
“Sunil and Raghavendra said, ‘How dare you talk back to me. You are a Dalit, know your place in the world. You clean garbage, you should just do that and nothing more’. He told me that since I am from a lower caste, I did not have any right to speak to him that way. He said this in the middle of the road with people watching. I felt so humiliated,” Anjanamma recounts.
Anjanamma called the members of the Guttige Pourakarmika Sangha who then took her to the hospital. Her doctor advised her to rest for a few days before going back to work but Anjanamma did not want to give her contractor any opportunity to withhold her pay. The members of the Union urged her to file a police complaint. An FIR has been registered at Peenya police station.
After the senior BBMP officials learnt of the police complaint, BBMP Commissioner Manjunath Prasad and the Assistant Executive Engineer went to meet with her.
“When they confronted the contractor, he yelled at the Commissioner and the AEE too. We demanded that we get our pay that very day. Finally, we got our money but I have not been able to get the contractor off my back. Raghavendra and Sunil are not my contractors anymore but they still haunt me. They still threaten me to withdraw the case,” she added.
Civic workers in Bengaluru have been staging protests demanding payment of their salaries after many of them were not paid for months altogether. The BBMP has released funds and but only some of Bengaluru’s pourakarmikas have been paid.