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Bihar: Patna Sanitation Workers' Strike Enters Seventh Day

They are advocating for a minimum monthly wage of Rs 18,000 to 20,000 instead of the current Rs 8,000 to 10,000.
Bihar: Patna Sanitation Workers' Strike Enters Seventh Day

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Pxfuel

Patna: The strike by thousands of contractual sanitation workers of the Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) entered its seventh day on Wednesday, severely impacting cleanliness in Patna. Residents have been enduring an overwhelming stench on the roads and narrow streets, with piles of putrid garbage, dirt, and animal carcasses littering the roadside and overflowing drains, as sanitation workers have ceased their duties.

Approximately 8,000 sanitation workers (safai karamcharis) initiated an indefinite strike on Thursday, September 21, in support of their 35-point demands. Their demands include equal pay for equal work, job regularisation, and an end to outsourcing.

The protesting sanitation workers have threatened not to return to work until PMC authorities fulfil their demands, asserting the legitimacy of their grievances. They are advocating for a minimum monthly wage of Rs 18,000 to 20,000 instead of the current Rs 8,000 to 10,000.

According to them, their current monthly earnings are a meagre Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000, making it challenging to support their families amidst rising food prices. Many of the striking workers have worked on a daily wage basis for over ten years, hoping for government job regularisation. The sanitation workers contend that they are the backbone of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Campaign) but have been left unsupported by the government.

Kedar Sharma, a resident of the Kankarbagh colony, expressed the dire situation, stating, "It is difficult to breathe outside my house because of heaps of garbage that have been festering for the last four to five days. The ongoing strike has significantly disrupted garbage collection and sweeping work, with heaps of refuse visible all over the city."

Similarly, Suresh Gupta, residing in S K Nagar, pointed out that the ongoing strike by sanitation workers during the monsoon season has exacerbated the problem, leading to foul odours permeating the air due to scattered dirt. He said, "People have been compelled to cover their noses and faces with their hands and handkerchiefs to ward off the stench, with heaps of garbage and filth strewn everywhere. The government should intervene promptly to end the strike."

PMC Commissioner Animesh Kumar Parasar has repeatedly claimed that alternative arrangements have been made for garbage collection and cleanliness drives. However, it appears that these so-called alternative arrangements have faltered in recent days. In addition, striking sanitation workers have expressed opposition to workers engaged or hired by the PMC for sweeping and garbage collection. Reports of clashes between striking sanitation workers and PMC-hired workers emerged on Sunday and Monday nights at various locations in Patna. Authorities have also issued warnings that FIRs will be filed against those who attacked PMC-hired workers involved in cleanliness efforts.

Chandraprakash Singh, leader of the Patna Nagar Nigam Karamchari Sangh, emphasised that sanitation workers have been compelled to undertake this indefinite strike, which will continue until their demands are met. Singh stressed that the striking sanitation workers are demanding equal pay for equal work, job regularisation, and reforms to the "anti-worker" policies of the corporation.

Last year, PMC sanitation workers protested and went on strike for 14 days against the state government's decision to terminate them instead of regularising their jobs, a demand they had long been making. Despite repeated verbal assurances by senior government officials, including two strikes by Grade-4 daily wage workers, including sanitation workers, their demands have yet to be fulfilled.

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