We at gaurilankeshnews.com are publishing a series of articles about the multiplicity of issues, concerns and hopes of women, today, March 8, 2021, to mark the International Working Women’s Day.
Anjanamma, a powrakarmika (civic worker) in Bengaluru spoke to gaurilankeshnews.com about being a civic worker in a city like Bangalore. This is a translation of this interview.
I have been working as a powrakarmika in ward number 39 for the last twenty five years. My husband is a powrakarmika as well. Around a hundred of us have been working in this ward. Twenty five of us had been working only for five hundred rupees. We have been struggling for our salaries and demanding for making our employment permanent. Not all of our demands are met. Though our salaries have gone up, the governments have failed to provide us with any employment benefits and facilities.
We women powrakarmikas work really hard to ensure the cleanliness and beauty of Bengaluru; we start working from six in the morning and work all day. We don’t have access to any basic facilities.
Women working get no holidays in case of health emergencies. We work in harsh conditions where we have no access to toilets even. We face great difficulties during our working hours because we don’t have access to safe and clean toilets. Many women have contracted Urinary Tract Infections and kidney related illnesses. To begin with we don’t have access to drinking water and though the government has started to provide us with food, it is completely stopped. We have protested against this neglect. We asked the government,
Why don’t we have any basic facilities? Why are we not given access to toilets? Why have you stopped providing us with food?
We have repeatedly brought into attention the government that it keeps boasting in public gathering and in front of the media about the facilities that it has provided us with, when we don’t have anything. We have got no facilities whatsoever and we have been fighting, demanding for basic facilities.
The result of our consistent struggle is the increasing of our salaries. In 2019 the government came up with a biometric system. Because of this system we are getting paid on the seventh or eighth day of every month. We still are getting paid rupees 12,000. It is impossible to live on such a small amount in times like these. We simply cannot support our everyday lives, support our families and take care of our health. We demand an increase in our salaries rupees 21,000. Government has not considered our demand. It is just not underpaying us, the workers who are sixty years of age are being laid off. Many powrakarmikas, despite working for twenty five years, have been laid off based on their age.
They promised to give ten lakh rupees to those laid off. Though all of us have been struggling and meeting officials higher up the rank, nothing has been done about this. Aged former powrakarmikas have been forced to turn to waste picking at their advanced age. This is inevitable. How many children take care of the aged parents these days? Also are the children of powrakarmikas who have been systemically kept out of the education system due to poverty in position to take care of their parents? No! Many of their children have lost their jobs during the COVID. It is heart wrenching to see what is happening.
We have submitted to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) commissioner along with the media reports and photos of the aged workers, who upon losing their jobs have resorted to waste picking. Is this the respect that the government agencies have for those who have worked half their lives towards keeping Bengaluru clean?
We have time and again pointed out that we are being blatantly neglected. We are not being heard. The only way to put an end to all of this is by making out employment permanent. Let them then, declare the age limit to the employment and also ensure that those who have crossed this limit are provided with employment benefits.
Our lives are difficult. What have we got in this life? Nothing! We have just lost.
We have lost our health as well and these officials responsible for our well being must take into consideration that we are the ones who dedicate our health and lives for making this city.
We are working women. We work for this society. The government must recognise this. It is the government’s duty to safeguard our rights and protect our dignity. This is not the case now. When I asked for my salary I was beaten up. I complained against the mestri who assaulted me. I became a black sheep in the eyes of the officers. I am determined to continue my fight. It is my right to fight against those who abuse their power.
Transcribed and translated by the Gauri Lankesh News team.