The state government of Karnataka has given a call for 4,000 posts of pourakarmikas (civic workers) for Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). However, the pourakarmikas allege that this is a backstabbing measure, for the Congress state government of 2017 had promised that their appointments would be regularised. According to All India Central Council of Trade Unions (AICCTU), the government has decided to regularise only 11,000 jobs in Karnataka, because of which the BBMP has advertised for 4,000 jobs. The BBMP Pourakarmika Sanghatane (the pourakarmikas’ union, affiliated to AICCTU) staged a protest against this announcement of the government today, September 24 at the BBMP office in Bengaluru.
In a memorandum submitted by the union, it noted, “The open call was given for only 4,000 posts, when there already has been an entire process of verification of pourakarmikas since January 2018, where about 18,000 workers have been identified to be working as sweepers (excluding vehicle drivers and helpers) for several decades. The recognition has been bestowed upon these workers, and making an open call for applications undermines the rights and dignity of these workers who have strived hard for their jobs to be regularised. It paves the way for new entrants and compromises the hard work and the rights of these workers who have been working for several decades.”
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The jobs of BBMP pourakarmikas have been under threat ever since their persistent struggle to end contractual employment was successful in 2018. The end of the contractual employment has resulted in the pourakarmikas getting their salaries directly from the BBMP. In January 2018, the pourakarmikas with less than a year of work experience were fired. From May 2019, the workers aged more than 60 were fired with no prior notice; neither were they provided with Provident Fund (PF) or any other post retirement facilities.
The announcement has also set 45 years as the age limitation for the applicants. This means that the pourakarmikas who have worked for 20-30 years cannot apply because of their age. The AICCTU in its pamphlet noted that this move of the BBMP has hurt the trust of the workers; the workers were hopeful about BBMP regularising their jobs.
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It is not only the setting of an age limit, the applications are online and are not free of cost. The application money has to be paid either by using credit/debit cards or through internet banking. This, the AICCTU pamphlet said, is an attempt of the BBMP and the current state government to get rid of the existing pourakarmikas. This is also proven from the fact that BBMP is not ready to accept identity cards, Employees State Insurance (ESI) and PF numbers or even the biometric attendance as supporting documents for the already employed pourakarmikas; instead, they are expected to submit their SSLC and medical certificates, along with a declaration that they know Kannada. This, it should be noted, is an extremely insensitive move against those who have been working day and night to keep the cities clean; as most of these workers are not literate and many are migrants. “So, to expect them to provide their SSLC certificate and proof that they can read and write in Kannada would push them out of their jobs,” the memorandum further said.
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The union noted, “It is known that the pourakarmikas have been waging a triple-fold battle against oppression based on caste, class and gender. All these years, they have been fighting to end the contract labour system in solid waste management, which in its feudal characteristics, exploited and oppressed the workers. Due to the constant struggles of the pourakarmikas under the aegis of the BBMP Pourakarmika Union, the workers were successful in ousting the sham contract system and were assured of job regularisation. However, the aforementioned notification has been issued
calling for online applications to regularise the posts of only 4,000 workers, as opposed to the 18,000 workers who are currently engaged in solid waste management in the city.”
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The following are the demands of the protesting union:
1. That the BBMP ensures that the Karnataka Government regularises all 18,000 pourakarmika workers in the city of Bangalore, instead of only 4,000.
2. That the BBMP ensures that the age limit criteria for regularisation which stands at 45 years is raised to 55 years.
3. That the BBMP ensures that the submission of application forms for regularisation is done by hand in designated BBMP offices, and to scrap online processes.
4. That the BBMP ensures that the payment mechanism towards application fees is made through bank demand drafts and to scrap online payment mechanism.
5. That the BBMP ensures that submission of various documents for verification is scrapped and the already existing documents distributed by the BBMP after rigorous verification procedure since January 2017 such as biometric numbers, ESI and PF numbers, ID cards issued by the BBMP, monthly payment slips, and other documents suffice the criteria for eligibility.
6. That the BBMP ensures pourakarmika workers are provided with housing facility and their children’s education is supported.
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