23 Real ‘COVID-19 WARRIORS’- the Pourakarmikas Felicitated by Mangaluru City Corporation (MCC) on ‘Pourakarmika Day’, at a programme held at Town Hall, Mangaluru on Wednesday, 7 October 2020.
Mangaluru: Most of us are so self-centred, we take all the people providing us various services, for granted. One such group is the group of Pourakarmikas or Corporation Sweepers/Sanitary Workers or MCC Civic Workers. Think what would happen if these people went on strike! Think of the garbage that many citizens throw on the road, into empty sites and at corners of pavements. Non-segregated, stinking garbage. Plastic bags torn up by street dogs and garbage strewn all over. Yet, we do not spare a thought for these poor workers performing a thankless task, and often abuse them. These workers face the unenviable task of collecting waste from every doorstep or sweeping the streets, and coping with the indiscriminate and insensitive disposal of solid waste by the apathetic and indifferent, and a system that does not enforce basic solid waste management initiatives like segregation of waste.
If our Mangaluru aka Kudla aka Kodiyal aka “Smart City” (however you call it), looks clean every single day, the credit should go to the hard working Pourakarmikas (garbage collectors) of Mangaluru City corporation and Antony Waste Handling Cell Pvt Ltd (the company hired for waste collection of the City). There may be a few NGO’s or organizations who are also involved in the Swachatha of Mangaluru, but theirs is a short term contribution/service. It’s these Pourakarmikas who wake up early in the morning, while most of us are still in bed, may it be rain or shine, are ready for their daily job, cleaning the mess created by the good and bad citizens of Mangaluru.
Every day we produce tonnes of waste – waste food, sugar cane husk, banana peels, waste meat and vegetables, egg shells, etc etc – which all get dumped into the dustbin, or in plastic bags or thrown along the side of the roads. Most of us give no second thought to where this garbage is going, let alone the people who come to whisk it out of our lives. We have seen Swachh Mangaluru programmes undertaken by NGO’s, educational institutions and other service minded organizations, who on a “cleaning spree” show their commitment to the public. Along with the chief guest, the volunteers come armed with gloves, covered shoes, face masks, and proper cleaning tools. A week later VIPs or politicians descended on the same place, for “Clean Up” operations, again well-armed with protective gear, gloves and masks etc. Truly a good community service along with publicity stunt?
But for those whose job is actually to clear up the muck daily, get no protective gear, forget about fancy gloves. One rule for VIPs, another for the rest. Especially the poor, and the voiceless middle class .These men and women, most of them hailing from North Karnataka, but living in various places in the City, and also locals, where they wake each morning at half past five or earlier and make their way to their mustering points, where they are required to assemble before they start their rounds. The group goes from apartment to apartment in the community, collecting their sorted green waste (if at all?) and rejected waste. While a few others sweep the streets filled with waste, and collect waste thrown on the road side. Similar to this kind of work, are the MCC pourakarmikas who also do the cleaning job of the City.
As anyone can guess, this is not a pleasant job to do, but the lack of amenities provided to them exponentially increases its difficulty and how unhygienic it is. No gloves or appropriate shoes have been provided to the group, and they were left with no option but to sort through the stinking mass of garbage barehanded, and climb into it with just a ragged pair of canvas shoes. The truth of such an occupation is that no one wishes to immerse themselves in the filth, but the job has to be done by someone. Despite the almost inhuman conditions and the lack of dignity associated with such work, the need for an income to support his family, and the accessibility of the job drives these pourakarmikas to continue working sincerely and with a dedication that is hard to find. When you talk about the dirtiest jobs around, there’s no doubt that the image of a trash collector/cleaner comes to mind. After all, it’s their job to handle your garbage all day.
Yes, the Pourakarmikas of MCC and Antony Waste Handling Company, are the Real Heroes Behind ‘Swachh Mangaluru’, and they have even worked during the lockdown/pandemic, making them also the True ‘COVID-19′ WARRIORS’ ! And it was a kind gesture shown by MCC officials by recognizing their hard work and service, and honouring nearly 23 Pourakarmikas for their extraordinary work amidst pandemic, on ‘Pourakarmika Day’, during a programme held at Town Hall, Mangaluru on Wednesday, 7 October 2020. The programme was inaugurated by lighting the lamp by MCC Commissioner Akshy Sridhar, Mayor Diwakar Pandeshwar, Deputy Mayor Mrs Vedavathi, Dr Santhosh Kumar- MCC Deputy Commissioner (Administration), Dr Manjayya Shetty- MCC Health Officer, Abdul Rauf- Opposition leader of MCC Council, among a bevy of corporators.
Following the welcome address by Er Shabrinath, the MCC Environment Engineer, the 23 Pourakarmikas, or you can call them, “Covid-19 Warriors” were felicitated by the dignitaries on the dais. Retired civic workers were also honoured. There are 206 pourakarmikas in MCC and 591 in Antony Waste Handling Co.
In his inaugural address, Mayor Diwakar said, “We need to appreciate the hard work and dedication of all these pourakarmikas. My sincere thanks to them for their rendered during the pandemic, risking their lives for others. We wanted to honor them on Independence Day, but due to certain reasons couldn’t do it. I am happy that we recognized their service on this Pourakarmika Day. We will hold discussions in the next meeting regarding providing better facilities for them and will see that they benefit out of it”
Akshy Sridhar-the MCC Commissioner said, “Not just today, every day should be observed as Pourakarmika Day, for all the hard work and service these pourakarmikas render day and night, 356 days a year, with no day off. We all should applaud their dedication and hard work, because if the city is clean, it’s due to these civic workers. We can call them the patriots for their patriotism. Their several demands will be discussed in the council meeting, and will be obliged soon”. Mrs Poornima- MCC Health Committee chairman and Anil Kumar-the president of Pourakarmika’s Association also spoke. The vote of thanks was delivered Shivalingha Kondugoli-the MCC Senior Health Inspector, and the programme was meticulously and professionally compered by Er Madhu Manohar, MCC Environment Engineer. The programme ended with few renditions of Kannada and Tulu songs by Brother & Sister Duo- Prashanth and Ms Pavithra, the children of Mrs Appi, employed as Attender in MCC Health section.
After the programme, speaking to Team Mangalorean a pourakarmika, by the name of Sarojamma, about her difficulties and what citizens can do, said, ” Citizens should know that our work is very hard, but we have to do it, we have no choice, to earn. We face difficulties when people don’t hand over the waste to us when we go door-to-door and throw it on the road or in corner sites. We get yelled by our supervisors saying we are not doing our work. My kind request for the public, Firstly, don’t waste so much. Then, collect and separate the waste, and please hand it to us. Don’t litter on the road and pavement. Littering is the main problem we are facing, we clean the roads and in no time the roads get dirty. If everyone cooperates, then our job will be done eas
So, the next time you think of those dirty jobs, don’t forget that some of them (like the tireless job of your hardworking garbage collector) are more than just dirty; they are also more dangerous than you might have realized. And thank the Pourakarmikas for keeping your surroundings clean, and not the NGO’s? Thank You, Dear Pourakarmikas for trying hard to keep our City Clean!