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Should the services of pourakarmikas be regularised?

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Governance

In italics below are the excerpts from a recent report in the New Indian Express (for the full report, click here), and my responses to them (in regular print)

The High Court on Friday asked the state government to state why it cannot regularise pourakarmikas who are employed on contract as has been done in Gulbarga district. It was earlier brought to the notice of the court by the petitioner’s advocate that though the government had a proposal to regularise the services of the pourakarmikas all over the state, it was done only in Gulbarga as it was the home district of the then chief minister.

If the pourakarmikas are regularised, the question will then arise as to why the many others - the security staff, gardeners, canteen staff, drivers, house-keeping staff, PWD contractors' workers, etc - indeed the whole army of them all, can't also be regularised. Does the government want to do that? Is the government equipped to manage them all? Once regularised, it will be next to impossible to terminate any of them, even if they commit the biggest of crimes esconsed in their safe havens. Besides, they will end up as the labour aristocracy ( a term coined by none other than the fiery Marxist parliamentarian, Sri Gurudas Dasgupta), using whom if you can achieve even a 10% productivity, it will be a miracle.

The court was hearing objections filed by the state on the PIL filed by the Karnataka State City Corporations and Town Municipalities Pourakarmikas Mahasangha seeking equal wages for pourakarmikas who are employed on contract and those employed on regular basis. 

In fact, all of these un-skilled and low-skilled jobs, the government should be totally out-sourcing, with its responsibility ending with ensuring that the provisions under the Minimum Wages Act are complied with, strictly. The government's job is to govern, and not to provide jobs. And, lesser the governmet, better the governance - check this. Alternatively, the government could amend the existing Labour Laws providing for easier termination of recalcitrant workers, and then employ them all directly.

The pourakarmikas are struggling all over the state without adequate facilities and safety gear. Recently one pourakarmika, Rajeshwaramma, was electrocuted when she placed a cleaning equipment near a transformer.

Of course, there should be no compromise on safety aspects, which is already the responsibility of the government, as the primary emplyer, but which it coveniently palms off onto the contractors.

Muralidhar Rao
 

Comments

abidpqa's picture

Allowing hire and fire policy

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Allowing hire and fire policy without social security is wrong.

Whether they are regularised or not, their salary should be increased. About an year ago, I saw a notice saying that they were getting around Rs. 3000. I hope they were successful in getting a raise. Their salary should at least be about Rs. 10,000.

The classification of unskilled is outdated and misleading. The salary should depend on the difficulty of the job, dangers faced, etc.

The minimum wage is not statutory. If somebody pay less than minimum wage also no action is taken.

murali772's picture

all very egalitarian, but - -

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Allowing hire and fire policy without social security is wrong.

Our country's population is supposedly just over a billion. Out of this, supposing a 30% are in the working age, of which say a conservative 10% are un-employed/ under-employed, the numbers that have to be supported through social security works out to 30 million. And, if you offer the same Rs 125/- a day for 200 days, as under the NREGA, for this 30 million, the burden comes to Rs 75,000 cr a year (And, if you want to pay at Rs 10k per month, the figure will be four times higher). Yes, it can be included in the budget. But, it will have to be met through additional taxation. I don't know how many of the tax payers will be prepared for that.

Whether they are regularised or not, their salary should be increased. About an year ago, I saw a notice saying that they were getting around Rs 3000. I hope they were successful in getting a raise.

I had attended this meeting today. During the course of the discussions, it came out that the cost to BBMP as per Minimum Wage Act, at the lowest skill level, works out to Rs 6,900/- per month, inclusive of ESI, PF. It would be interesting to find out how many people are paying their own employees even these levels of wages.

Their salary should at least be about Rs 10,000. The classification of unskilled is outdated and misleading. The salary should depend on the difficulty of the job, dangers faced, etc.

For all the so-called un-employment in the country, there's a serious shortage of skilled labour. If you go on upgrading your skills, the sky is the limit for a good worker. A good mason comes at not less than Rs 500/- per day in Bangalore today. Another aspect of excessive job security is that it acts as a disincentive for enhancing skills leading to drop in productivity.

The minimum wage is not statutory. If somebody pay less than minimum wage also no action is taken.

It is statutory, but with a few exemptions, but which anyway do not apply in the case of BBMP. Yes, enforcement is the problem, like everywhere else too, and that's what needs to be tackled.

 

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

labour laws need to be revised first

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The High Court on Wednesday directed the State government to consider within six months the proposal of cancelling the contracts of pourakarmikas and appointing them as permanent employees of city municipal corporations and urban local bodies.

A Division Bench of Justices K L Manjunath and Ravi Malimath passed the direction while hearing a PIL filed by former Mysore mayor Narayana, who is also president of the Karnataka State City Corporation and Town Municipalities Pourakarmikas Mahasangha.

He had requested the court to direct the corporations and municipalities to pay wages to contracted pourakarmikas on par with the permanent staff.

During the hearing, Additional Advocate General Shivanna submitted that the proposal to appoint contract civic workers employed with city corporations, city municipalities and town municipalities as permanent employees is pending before the State government and added that it will be done within six months.

The Bench told the government to complete the process in the prescribed time and disposed of the petition. The petition contended that though the contract workers are doing the same amount of work, the corporations are paying them lesser than those employed on a permanent basis, which is a violation of the right to equality.


For the full report in the New Indian Express, click here.

Like I have already stated in the opening post, once this is done, demands will arise from other sections of contract workers too. Can the government afford to regularise all of them too? As it is, a large chunk of the revenue of government organisations is going to meet the salary bills of the employees. And, if this proposal too goes through, there will be nothing left even for regular maintenance work, leave alone for any development work, the 7th pay commission recommendations (check this) adding to their burden even further.

Apart from all of these is the fact that you'll land up with a labour aristocracy, which you'll never be ale to sack, even in the case of as recalcitrant levels of behaviour as seen here and here, all of it having its impact on productivity. As such, unless the labour laws are revised (as suggested here) allowing for straight sacking of workers in as blatant cases of recalictance as in the examples cited, regularisation of all sections of workers will lead to disastrous consequences for the economy. And, if the labour laws are revised as suggested, then perhaps everyone can be employed directly.

Muralidhar Rao

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