At a time when Bengaluru is driving the second wave of Covid-19 in Karnataka with an explosion of cases and rising fatalities, especially over the last few days, as many as 280 workers at a crematorium in the state capital run by the civic body have alleged that haven’t been paid over the last one year.
A Suresh, Karnataka general secretary of Dr BR Ambedkar Dalita Samithi, a body representing the staffers of the crematorium run by Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike(BBMP), said the workers who are toiling every day to bury or cremate Covid 19 infected bodies are even considered front line workers. “Apart from this and more importantly, the civic body has not paid about 280 workers for more than a year,” Suresh told indianexpress.com
“We met all the officials concerned and staged many protests. They have only given assurances while the workers keep going unpaid,” he added.
According to the workers, they are paid only Rs 14,500, which after deductions is further reduced to an in-hand pay of Rs 10,500. “We have not been paid by the BBMP for the last 13 months. So, we have to depend on the family members, who come to have their loved ones cremated, to make a living. They pay us Rs 100 to Rs 500, as per their convenience. We are running our households with whatever little we are earning this way,” said Prakash, who works at Bagalagunte crematorium in North Bengaluru.
The crematoria workers staged a protest on March 23, demanding their unpaid salaries. BBMP officials held a meeting with them on March 29, saying they would be getting their wages soon.
The workers said the number of bodies in crematoriums has been increasing over the last few days and since the second wave hit Bengaluru. Ravi, a worker from Sumanahalli crematorium which is dedicated to disposal of bodies of Covid-19 victims, said, “About 10 bodies of Covid-19 victims are cremated here every day. There are no proper PPE kits available for us and we are exposed to the virus. The civic body couldn’t care less about our plight. We are not even considered frontline workers, which would have made us eligible for vaccines.”
BBMP chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta said he was not aware of the situation till he came across media reports on the plight of crematorium workers. “I have directed the officials concerned to immediately arrange the salaries of our crematorium workers and administer Covid-19 vaccines to them so that they can work without fear,” Gupta told indianexpress.com.