Pourakarmikas in Bengaluru, who are frontline workers keeping the city and its hospitals clean, held another protest on June 3, seeking an allowance from the Karnataka government and for vaccination to be provided for them. Pourakarmikas came together in different parts of the city to ask for free vaccines, and a provision of Rs 10,000 as monthly allowance and for protective gear and basic amenities, said a statement by PP Appanna, the Karnataka General Secretary of All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU). Many pourakarmikas held placards highlighting their demands.
Pourakarmikas are working half-days during the lockdown. Their work begins at 6:30 am and ends at 10:30 am. In addition to sweeping the streets and keeping the city clean, pourakarmikas were also asked to clean hospitals and healthcare centres during the lockdown period. They have also had to deal with medical waste, gloves and masks in their work.
"We cleaned a hospital but we were not paid any extra amount for it," says Manju, a pourakarmika from Indiranagar in the city. She says that pourakarmikas were given new uniforms and protective gear at the start of May. She added that they should be given extra money to manage other affairs too. "We have to pay for our children's school fees and for the rent," Manju says.
The protest is the second one held by pourakarmikas during the second wave of COVID-19 in the city. The first protest was held in April when pourakarmikas demanded protective gear and transportation facilities at the start of the lockdown period.
‚ÄúThe most unfortunate aspect is that workers in Group D jobs are not treated with dignity and respect, despite their invaluable contributions,‚ÄĚ said the statement by AICCTU.
In 2020, activists raised questions when the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) submitted in the High Court that 812 pourakarmikas had tested positive for the coronavirus. But even though pourakarmikas work in tight-knit groups or musters, many said that they were not quarantined when positive cases were detected.
One of the demands this year from pourakarmikas is for the government to arrange an institutional quarantine facility for them.
The Karnataka government on Thursday announced a second COVID-19 relief package of Rs 500 crore covering ASHA workers, anganwadi workers, fisherpersons, powerloom workers among others. But pourakarmikas were not included in this relief package.