Among the safaikarmacharis employed by the government and its various arms in the State of Karnataka, the most exploited are the those employed by Gram Panchayats (GPs) (referred to as jaadmali ಜಾಡಮಾಲಿ ) in the state. The existing financial arrangement between the Gram Panchayaths and the Rural Development and Panchayath Raj Department (RDPR) required the GPs to keep 40% of the total tax collected for paying salaries to the employees of the GP. Thus, the amount available for payment of salaries would depend upon the revenue of the GP. As a result of this arrangement, across several GPs salaries remained pending for months and often the salaries would be much below the minimum wages notified by the government itself.
The jaadmalis were the most affected workers because of this system. In several GPs in Pavagada and Madhugiri talukas of Tumkuru district where Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi (SKKS) has been organising jaadmaalis, workers were being paid salaries of as low as Rs 3,500 per month. This is when following the State-level jatha organised by SKKS in 2016, the minimum wages for safaikarmcharis working for GPs was notified as Rs 13,635 for Grade-I GPs. Even these sub-human wages were paid with delay of 4-6 months. In several GPs in Tumkuru, workers had to resort to protest to get their wages for last 7-8 months. For these reasons, at the District level convention of SKKS held in Tumkuru on Feb 02, 2017, we had resolved to work for timely payment of minimum wages to the jaadmali workers employed by the GPs.
As a partial fulfilment of our demands, on March 02, 2018, the RDPR department issued a Government Order (GO) which provides for payment of minimum wages to jaadmali workers directly from state government funds starting March 2018. This would certainly be a progressive step and from hereon, timely payment of salaries from the government should be ensured. By not paying the minimum wages for the 19 months period between Aug 4, 2016 when the new minimum wages were notified and Feb 2018, the government has violated the fundamental rights of the most marginalised dalit workers. Hence, SKKS demands that
- The difference between the actual salaries paid by the GPs and the minimum wage notified on Aug 4, 2016, for the period starting the notification till Feb 2018, should be paid as arrears to the jaadmalis.
- Adequate safety equipment should be provided to the workers; and
- ESI and PF should be ensured for the workers.