Working Without A Break: The Life of Pourakarmikas

Radio Active marked #LabourDay2018 by speaking to workers who work in the city’s informal sector. It is a tough life that is made tougher by the lack of acknowledgment of their status as ‘labourers’, poor pay, low access to social schemes, and the ever-present danger of exploitation at the hands of unscrupulous middle-men.

We are sharing stories about and, when possible, putting a face to the names we refuse to hear.

This episode speaks about Life of Pourakarmikas


Narasimha, Jayanagara

In spite of serving 15 years in the BBMP as a pourakarmika, Narasimha has been deprived of basic benefits from the Government. He still works on contract-basis and his monthly payments are often delayed. Till date, he doesn’t own a health card. The only benefits he can avail are PF and V C card. He is not enrolled for any leave option and on Wednesdays and Sundays, he does half-a-day’s work. “Our contract stipulates four leaves per month, but we have not received them thus far,” he says. “Everyone is entitled to their correct salaries and also to increments in salaries if the work and the inflation demand so.”
Narasimha has been working out of Jayanagara for the past 6 years. In his experience, most of the people in the area dump waste here and there instead of giving it to the waste collectors during their door-to-door collection rounds.
Thipanna, Jayanagara, 1st block
Thipanna has worked in the city’s corporation for 15 years. He started work as an auto-cleaner and later started driving an autorickshaw while going door-to-door to collect dry waste. He works in waste segregation as well.
“About 70% of the people practice segregation at source, it’s only the remaining 30% that is not doing it at all,” he says. While driving, whenever he notices anyone throwing mixed waste, he approaches and speaks to them, conveying the message of segregation at source and its importance.
Thipanna’s life, however, is tough because he has not been receiving regular salary every month. Ironically, segregation at source has closed his source of additional income (of INR 100 or INR 150) which he used to have from segregating mixed waste himself and selling recyclables. Today, he requests the government to increase salaries and pay them monthly without fail.
Kaseem Khan
Kaseem Khan has been working at a Dry Waste Collection Center (DWCC) as a driver for the past one year. He is part of the door-to-door waste collection drive. “It gives me great satisfaction, raising awareness among people who do not follow segregation at source,” he says.
Another reason for Kaseem’s happiness is the benefit of regular monthly salary, which DWCC manager Mansoor ensures, in spite of facing problems in clearing bills at BBMP. “If these salaries are paid regularly to pourakarmikas, then segregation will happen everywhere!” Without these payments, pourakarmikas cannot continue work and if they decide to go on a strike, #Bangalore will not look the same!
Chitra, Jayanagar
Chitra works at a composting center at Jayanagara. On a daily basis, the center receives around two loads of wet waste for composting – the first step is to sort through this wet waste and add it to the composter along with dry leaves. “It is not easy work. The wet waste that is bought in smells terrible and sometimes, we can’t even segregate it because of worms in it,” she says.
Chitra has been receiving INR 9,000 as monthly salary without any delay. But these workers do not enjoy any other benefits. Every day is a working day and if anyone needs a leave, they have to distribute their part of work among others.


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