While many pourakarmikas cleaning Bengaluru's streets took part in protests to get their rightful salaries that went unpaid for months, an employee of a garbage contractor in the KR Market ward allegedly fraudulently enrolled himself as a pourakarmika in order to draw salary.
Sixty-year-old SM Subrahmanya, who was working for the contractor of the KR Market ward, was tasked with arranging vehicles. Other than supplying vehicles, he also doubled up as the supervisor, thanks to his allegiance with local ward-level officials.
The supervisor registers biometric attendance pourakarmikas thrice a day, and has access to the biometric setup of the ward. This made it easy for Subrahmanya to link his biometrics to benami accounts and claim salaries for three different roles. He also allegedly obstructed pourakarmikas from marking themselves present in the attendance log.
A memorandum was submitted to the JC West Zone on Wednesday by Muniraju, a pourakarmika union leader. The memorandum said, “SM Subrahmanya is 60 years old and works as a supervisor in ward number 139, in the KR Market ward. Although he is 60 years old and past his retirement age, he is still being employed. Besides, Subrahmanya is the one who has access to the biometric device installed to record the attendance of the pourakarmikas. He has registered himself as a pourakarmika in the biometric system and has been withdrawing salary for the same since January. He has also created many benami pourakarmika accounts and is drawing profits from it.”
The memorandum further added that this was brought to the notice of officials, but nothing was done.
“We had brought this to the notice of the Assistant Executive Engineer and the junior health inspector, but they were mute spectators and did nothing about it. Subramanya harasses the pourakarmikas and sometimes does not allow them to register their attendance in order to ensure that his benami accounts keep getting funds.”
The workers have demanded that Subrahmanya be sacked and plan to write to Joint Commissioner for Solid Waste Management.
A pourakarmika who wished to remain anonymous told TNM, “KR Market Corporator Nazima Khanam’s husband, who is a close aide of Zameer Ahmed Khan along with Junior Health Inspector Suresh Kumar asked us to sort this issue amicably, even though Subramanya has threatened to harm us."
At the time of writing, BBMP Joint Commissioner for Solid Waste Management Sarfaraz Khan denied knowledge of the incident.
Before January 2018, many pourakarmikas were paid by these contractors, instead of the salaries being directly transferred by the BBMP. The contractor system meant that not only was the BBMP billed for ghost workers, but some pourakarmikas doing their job were not getting paid their dues.
After a long time, the direct transfer system was brought in in 2017 by former CM Siddaramaiah.
The Solid Waste Management Department of the BBMP is not new to contractors billing the Palike for ghost services. Recently, it emerged that close to 100 garbage compactors, for which the BBMP is being billed, may exist only on paper.
Activists working closely with the pourakarmikas allege that some officials of the BBMP in collusion with the contractors oppress the pourakarmikas.