Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Times Now
On November 3, the Karnataka Grama Panchayat Naukarara Sangha—an affiliate of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU)—had organised a state-wide convention of sweepers and sanitation workers of rural region. The union handed over a petition to Uma Mahadevan, Principal Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Department, demanding that the number of sweepers and sanitation workers be increased.
According to the IPD Salappa report, the worker-public ratio has to be 1:500. However, in 2018, this was changed to 1:700. Many workers have also lost their jobs because of this. The union demanded that the measures must be taken to implement the Salappa report.
The workers present at the convention also complained about the delay and/or reduction in the wages and also of the harassment by the local panchayat officials. Mahadevan promised that the wages of the pourakarmikas from now on will be transferred directly into their bank accounts. Prajavani quoted M K Kempegowda as saying that there have been policies made to increase the wages, ensure pension, health insurance and regularisation of their appointments. However, he also admitted that none of these policies were being implemented. Reportedly, he went on to say that all the policies will be implemented.
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The union demanded that the money should be released by the authorities in time, employees should be regularised, 1,521 gram panchayats should be upgraded and a trust should be set up that would coordinate the pension scheme.
As NewsClick has reported in the past, the same demands have been raised by the pourakarmikas employed by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP). Speaking to NewsClick, G Ramakrishna of the Karnataka Grama Panchayat Naukarara Sangha explained that most of the civic workers under the municipal body are contractual labourers and they also have “scavengers”. On the other hand, in gram panchayats, there are mainly sweepers and those who clean the sewers in the villages.
Those employed by the gram panchayat earn Rs 12,870 per month. He said, “This has been in effect since August 5, 2016. Even though the wage was fixed in 2016, none of the workers were given this much money and in time.” He further explained that the reason for this was the social exploitation. He said, “Usually, every member of a family gets involved in sweeping. The panchayati ensures that the work is done by at least a family member of the employed, but refuses to register these family members as employees. Attendance of the employees is shown to be good; the work is usually done, but none of them get wages.”
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Ramakrishna also mentioned that many of the employees are refused registration as employees, arguing that they don’t have the required educational qualification. “On July 23, the jilla panchayat passed an order stating that the sweepers should have passed seventh standard to be eligible to claim remuneration. There are more than 10,000 workers under panchayati across the state and you will not find more than 150 registrations. What does this mean? This means that none of them are eligible to be registered as the employees of the zilla panchayat,” he explained.
IPD Salappa report is also against this marker of educational qualification. The BBMP has stopped using it as a marker and many of the employees are being regularised.
The question that the union put forward in front of the government yesterday is why the rules applicable to the BBMP civic workers are not applicable to the workers under panchayati. And most importantly, the union is against the policy of the state government notification that set the pourakarmika-public ratio in the gram panchayat to 1:5000; 2:9000 and 3:13,000.
Krishna gave example of Kalgoorlie panchromatic of the Mandy district. He explained, “There are thirteen sweepers in the village and if they miss even a day or two, the entire village would begin to stink. The generation of the waste everyday in the village is so high that it is impossible even with the thirteen sweepers to ensure that the village is clean. So, this ratio that is been set is skewed.”
The Panchromatic Raj Department has reportedly promised hearings to the workers.
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