Bengaluru pourakarmikas not paid wages due to data entry issues, many forced to retire

Several pourakarmikas have been told that they can't work, as they have turned 60 years old.
Bengaluru pourakarmikas standing together for a photograph
Bengaluru pourakarmikas standing together for a photograph
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Pattamma is a 54-year-old pourakarmika in Bengaluru, who works in the LR nagar ward. Six months ago, her supervisor Siddanna informed her one morning, without prior notice, that it would be her last day at work as she had turned 60-years old. He said that it was time for her to retire. Pattamma was earning Rs 13,000 per month and was the sole breadwinner for her family of four including her son, daughter-in-law and grandson. Pattamma said that her family lived hand to mouth and could barely save a few rupees every month. “It felt like suddenly, I would have to figure out how to make more money. I kept telling my supervisor that I am 54-years old but he informed me that according to the data in the system, I am 60-years old. How can this be? I have not received pay for my work for six months now and I am struggling,” Pattamma said. 

Bengaluru, a city infamous for its garbage management problem, has a singular force which ensures that its roads are clean — the pourakarmikas. For all the backbreaking work they do, many of them say that they have not been paid their wages for over six months and this is due to several discrepancies in the data entered into the biometric system. 

In Pattamma’s case, in order to counter her supervisor’s claims, she submitted copies of her Aadhaar card and voter’s ID, which stated that she was only 54-years old. Besides, she also got a bone density test done, to determine her age. The results also proved that Pattamma was 54. Despite running from pillar to post, Pattamma has not been paid for six months. She said that her pleas to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) come back with one answer: “Your file is being processed”. 

Besides Pattamma, other pourakarmikas like Patrajamma and Seethamma, who also work in the LR Nagar ward, have encountered the same problem. Unlike Pattamma, Seethamma said that she does not have documents to prove her age. “I have been working for five months without pay. I have got a bone density test done to prove my age. I think I may be 55 years old now. In our village, we didn’t know anything about birthdays. My mother didn’t know her age too and I never thought it would be a problem,” Seethamma said. 

Ravanamma (56), is a pourakarmika working in Koramangala 1st Block. She has been working for nine months without pay. Ravanamma said that her supervisor was unwilling to accept the birth date mentioned in her Aadhaar Card but instead decided to enter the date mentioned in her bank passbook, which was incorrect. “I have asked BBMP so many times to rectify this mistake but they haven’t. I have taken loans now to be able to buy food and manage my household. We are a family of four and my husband doesn’t earn,” she said. 

Just like Ravanamma, Pattamma, Seethamma and Patrajamma too have incurred loans. They have all incurred loans amounting to Rs 1 lakh. “This may seem like a small amount to many but for me, it is a huge amount. Without my salary, how will I repay the money? I don’t have the capacity to take more loans. My land owner is threatening to evict me. If this happens, I will be homeless,”  Pattamma said, as she began weeping. 

When TNM spoke to the Chief Engineer of the BBMP’s Solid Waste Management Department Vishwanath, he said that the BBMP is trying to resolve the issues as soon as possible. “In many cases, the age issue is real and true but we have also come across false complaints. So it is taking time to vet all the requests and ensure that those who are not 60 years old are getting back to work and also ensuring that their salaries are paid.”

Senior BBMP officials said that many of the pourakarmikas, whose age data was entered incorrectly, have not received the salary payments due to shortage of funds in the BBMP. “The money was allocated based on data in our system. So to pay the outstanding money, we have sent a request to the state government. They have to release the funds,” a senior official said.

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