Gravediggers in grave situation as wages not paid timely

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Burial ground caretakers and gravediggers all over the city do not receive their payment on time. Workers complain of being underpaid and their dues not being cleared.

By Shalu Chowrasia

Bengaluru: Parmeshwaran (name changed), who along with his family migrated from Rajasthan years ago, has been living as a caretaker in a graveyard in Koramangala for about 25 years. His family earns by selling pots outside the cemetery gate. He says that he has been denied any payment because he lives inside the burial ground. “If we ask for money, they will throw us out of this place,” he said.

Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) had fixed a salary of Rs 1000 per month for graveyard workers in February 2009. Since then, many workers complained that the amount was not enough for their survival and they were not getting paid on time. In 2017, graveyard workers protested for an increase in their wages, after which BBMP identified 232 families who worked in burial grounds and had agreed to pay up to Rs 16,000 per month.

Caretaker of Wilson Garden burial ground, Subramaniam, informed The Softcopy that the three workers under him have not been paid for the past two months. He maintains an attendance sheet which he submits to the BBMP zonal office, after which, the workers are supposed to receive their due payment.   

 “The order copy of the workers has not been updated with an increased salary. They still receive only Rs. 1000,” he said.

Bangalore has about 130 burial grounds which are maintained by BBMP as well as some private trusts. BBMP Welfare Officer, Somu K said that BBMP held a meeting for Safai Karmacharis in December 2019 where direct payment of workers through their bank account was discussed. “The monthly wage per worker is about Rs. 12,000. We are still discussing about the payment method.” When asked about the dues not being cleared, he refused to comment. 

A gravedigger in Srirampura Cemetery who has been working there since he was 14 said that he does not receive any payment from BBMP. “I depend on the money received from mourners and family members of the buried given out of courtesy ,” he said.

Additional Labour Commissioner of Government of Karnataka, Dr. Manjunath Gangadhara, said that a few years ago the government was contemplating to fix minimum wages for the graveyard workers. “Thereafter we did not hear much because these workers do not have any representation. Although the job that they perform, the last ritual, is of extreme importance, but still unfortunately they go unrecognized. Their work is invisible.” 

Parmeshwaran, from the Koramangala graveyard, grieved that there was no response from the authorities even after several pleas, for an electricity connection. Mr. Shubhash Bhatnagar, Chief functionary of NIRMANA, which works for the unorganised sector workers, says, “The wages of the workers needs to be fair and fixed. The corporation should take initiative. Even if they are providing housing, a nominal amount should be directed to them as payment.”