A group of women who have been keeping Bengaluru clean haven’t been paid their dues for three months now. When pourakarmikas (civic workers) of Bengaluru’s KR Puram area demanded their outstanding salaries, the contractor who is supposed to pay them decided to not just brazen it out - he went on to sexually harass them, abused them with casteist slurs, and even took his pants off in front of the workers.
In fact, when asked for the salaries, the contractor was so disgusting, he said, “It’s in my pants, come and get it,” alleges Vinay Srinivasa, a member of the BBMP Gutteige Pourakarmika Sangha. He also hurled casteist abuses at them and threatened to rape them, Vinay said. “Is this the kind of contractors BBMP engages?” he asked.
Soon after the incident occurred, the civic workers got in touch with their union members who filed a complaint with the BBMP Sexual Harassment Committee and the Karnataka Social Welfare Department.
Upon receiving information that a complaint was filed against him at the KR Puram Police Station, an enraged Nagesh allegedly gathered a few local thugs and attempted to threaten the civic workers on Thursday.
“This morning (Thursday), the contractor brought five local goons along with him who were carrying rods and threatened the pourakarmikas. He removed his pants and used casteist slurs and even got hold of one of the pourakarmikas and beat her with the rod. He then dragged her to the police station,” said Maitree, a member of Alternative Law Forum, the group representing the workers.
KR Puram Police officials told TNM that an FIR was registered against Nagesh on Thursday evening, for outraging the modesty of women and under 354A for sexual harassment. “He has also been booked under relevant sections of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act,” KR Puram police officials said.
The workers also alleged that the contractor had support from the BBMP health inspector, Ramakrishna.
“Is this a civilised city or jungle raj? Are pourakarmikas slaves? Why is the BBMP sitting idle? This is the second time in the last few months that contractors have assaulted pourakarmikas. What is the BBMP doing?” the Sangha asked in a press statement.
Strongly condemning the incident, Bengaluru Mayor Sampath Raj said that strict action will be taken against the concerned contractor.
“The safety of its workers is of utmost importance to the BBMP. We will not tolerate such behaviour from anyone. I have directed the concerned BBMP officials to look into the matter. If he is found guilty, then we will ensure that his contract license is suspended. We value our civic workers very much. I have also spoken with the concerned health officer as there were allegations that he was supporting the contractor. It was ensured that an FIR was registered against the contractor,” BBMP Mayor Sampath Raj told TNM.