(Pamphlet by the Support Group for Contract
Paurakarmikas, Bangalore)

Every day at dawn, while the rest of Bangalore city
still sleeps, 6000 paura karmikas set out from their
homes, broom in hand, to clean up yesterday’s dirt
from the city’s streets and garbage dumps.
Because it is so early, most leave home on an empty
stomach. Their first and often, only meal is in the
early evening. Because they stay far from the city and
cannot afford the bus fare, they must walk miles to
get to their workplace. On the way many are chased and
bitten by dogs. Most are chronically ill with severe
breathing problems from constant exposure to dust and
pollution; skin diseases from handling filth with bare
hands; backaches and swollen joints from bending and
sweeping all day. Every day of the week, every week of
the year.
This is the story of the contract paura karmikas,
whose job it is to keep Bangalore, the garden city
clean and tidy. If the paura karmika is a man, in a
month he earns Rs 1000; if a woman, she gets Rs 800.
Eighty percent of paura karmikas are women; almost all
are dalits.
For a decade now, the government has been flouting its
own law with impunity, the law that regulates contract
labour and specifies a process to fix a minimum wage.
It avoids legal accountability by resorting to
sub-contracting of work. It uses the system of
sub-contracting to flout the law. Every year
contractors bribe politicians and Corporation
officials to ensure that they get BMP’s municipal
cleaning contract. Though the law gives a minimum wage
of Rs 2146/- for comparable occupations, what the
contract paura karmika, actually gets is less than
half this amount.
Workers who have tried to fight for justice have
always come up against the nexus of corrupt BMP
officials who have the backing of strong political
forces. Intimidation, sexual harassment and physical
violence against contract workers are routinely used
to suppress dissent.
Despite threats, the contract paura karmikas have been
waging a prolonged struggle under their union, the
Bangalore Mahanagara Pallike Guttige Paura Karmika
Sangha. A large number of the employees have refused
to take wages for the last two months in protest. The
union has held dharnas of more than a 1000 workers
before the offices of the Corporation and Labour
Commissioner. During the entire struggle, the workers
have not stopped work for even a single day, and the
city of Bangalore has remained clean.
In the face of resistance, the Corporation and Labour
Commissioner have made public announcements that the
worker’s demands are just, and that they should be
paid a minimum wage by cheque to ensure compliance.
Despite this, the government continues to drag its
heels. The latest discovery by the state officials is
that there is actually no minimum wage notified for
contract workers.
The workers have now intensified their struggle. And
they are not alone. A large number of civil rights
groups, womens?organisations, NGOs and individuals
have formed a Support Group in solidarity with the
contract paura karmikas?struggle. A struggle whose
gains will affect not just the 6000 paura karmikas in
this city but more than 50,000 paura karmikas
throughout Karnataka state.
Bangalore is known as the garden city of the country.
The burden of keeping it clean and beautiful falls on
the backs of an exploited and oppressed section - the
paura karmikas, who are crying out for minimum
justice. If you believe that your waste should be
cleaned in a non-exploitative manner, support the
struggle of the contract paura karmikas. Support the
union’s demand for:
.A minimum wage for contract paura karmikas to be paid
in the presence of the prinicipal employer and Labour
department during payment of wages
.Issue of ID cards and wage slips as per the law
.Confirmation of services of all workers
.Necessary steps to prevent sexual harassment at the