8th January marked the sixth day of Bihar’s Sanitation Workers.
The workers of Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) and safai karamcharis who clean the city every day to keep it free from stink and rot are on strike against the attempts of the government’s decision to remove them instead of regularising their jobs. The Grade-4 daily-wage employees who carry out this crucial but most unpleasant work of clearing garbage have been demanding that they be regularised. Despite repeated verbal assurances by top government officers, striking Grade-4 daily- wagers, including sanitation workers, are adamant that they will not relent till their demands are fulfilled.
Faced with this, the PMC suspended 12 sanitary inspectors and initiated disciplinary proceedings against them. On 6th January, the PMC authorities lodged an FIR in Kotwali Police Station against six leaders of different unions of the workers for instigating and creating problems in official work. Those named in the FIR including PMC Karamchari Union President, Nigam Chaturth Vargiya Karamchari Sangh General Secretary and other leaders. This attempt to break the strike was not successful.
The district administration warned striking employees, asking them to return to work while hiring daily-wage workers to clear heaps of garbage under police protection. The administration decided to provide police security to the newly hired daily-wage workers amid apprehensions of an attack by the striking workers. Striking workers have stopped administrative staff when they reached the office along with the hired labourers.
Striking employees are firm in continuing their strike until the Government fulfills their old demand of regularisation. They continued with their sit-in (dharna) outside the PMC headquarters at Maurya Lok Complex and shouted slogans against the Government’s anti-workers’ approach.
The on-going strike has badly hit the cleaning of garbage and sweeping work in the city. Heaps of garbage are visible all around Bihar’s capital. The striking employees have themselves thrown animal carcasses on main roads, near markets, outside the official residence of a Minister and top officers, and in posh residential localities.
The strike began on Monday, 3rd February, after the Urban Development Department (UDD) acted on the basis of an order from the office of Lokayukta and directed all urban municipal bodies in the state including the PMC to stop engaging daily-wage workers in group D and outsource staff from 1st February. This would be a death blow to the 4,500 workers engaged as daily-wage workers.
The agitating workers said that hundreds of them have been working for the last 10 years on a daily-wage basis in the hope that the government will regularise their job. The sanitation workers said that they were the real players behind the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan but were mostly left in the lurch.
Latest reports indicate that sanitation workers in all 143 municipal units in Bihar have also joined the strike. Cleaning work is badly affected in Gaya, Munger, Muzaffarpur, Katihar and other towns.