Sanitation workers at the receiving end

Bhubaneswar: For the fourth day Tuesday, lanes, by-lanes and marketplaces in the capital were littered with garbage, because scavengers working for three private entities, namely PMR, PRAGATI and Ramky, were on strike, pressing for an increase in their wages.
Out of a total of 67 wards, BMC handles scavenging and garbage removal in 10 wards, while PMR and Ramkey have 14 wards each and PRAGATI 29 wards.
Over 400 scavengers and drivers work for PMR and over 700 and about 800 for Ramky and PRAGATI respectively.
Sources said when these three private organisations won their tenders in 2013; they used to pay the workers `150 as daily wages. Since then, workers had struck work twice and had consequently been getting `170.
The scavengers are now reportedly demanding a daily wage of `213 as per government rules, including bonus, ESI, EPF and leave. Sources in the three organisations say that `213 is the wage for an eight-hour working day, but the striking workers work only for four to five hours.
This apart, BMC is paying no heed to their request to increase the fees they are paid on the basis of inflation – the escalation fee.
The sources say these companies have increased the wages to `190 and hope the workers will resume work Wednesday.
On the other hand, the workers employed by the three private organisations and those working for the BMC were reported to have conducted two rounds of meetings Tuesday to decide the future course of action. If the two sides don’t budge, common people will have to live with the piles of garbage for at least a day more, Wednesday.
Sources in the Ambedkar Safei Karmachari Sangha (ASKS) alleged that neither BMC nor the private parties think seriously about the betterment of these workers. They reveal that workers involved in operations to control mosquito breeding are not being provided with essential masks, gloves and shoes.
They, along with other workers, have also not been getting uniforms, health check-ups at regular intervals and extra payment for working on off days like Independence Day, Republic Day, etc, for the past seven or eight years.
Mahesh Kumar Das, vice president, ASKS, said about 600 workers associated with the union, and working for BMC, are going to present a memorandum to the civic authorities. If their demands are not met within a given time, they will take drastic action, further affecting sanitation.
With Swachh Survekshan-18 ongoing, this situation will definitely upset the civic body, which has started preparations to get a favourable score in the competition, people


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