“Pharaohs built the pyramids, Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal, likewise Information & Technology is building the Bruhat Bengaluru”: One commonality in these claims is the approval given to making the workers oblivious, and projecting these mega accomplishments as simply grand individual feats.
History is unpardonably biased, and has always been against the working class.
While the last decade has seen namma Bengaluru become the IT cradle of Asia, the outsourcing hub for the developed world, we have all been busy envisaging the city as another Singapore, with the IT revolution sweeping every nook and corner of our conscious lives, governance and the sprouting malls ( which seem to have become the symbol of urbanisation) – a silently struggling force has been driving this change without flaunting around in the malls or the multiplex cinema halls.
The prefix ‘Bruhat’ (grand,massive), to the previously BMP – Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (city corporation) does project the aspiration of what the city wants to be, and some might well argue this has even come true. Apart from all the growth the IT revolution has caused in Bangalore – SEZ’s, IT parks, multi-storeyed apartments, super markets, better roads, plenty of cars, branded merchandise, fast food centres, ‘bottled’ drinking water and all the rest of it, it also silently has multiplied the cost of living in the city to many great extents – making it one of the costliest cities in India to survive in.
A relevant digression into a lesser known, easily ignored facet of the IT revolution might allow some of us to have a more balanced outlook of this ‘progress’.
The workforce which drives most of the BBMP’s computerised avatar are the contract labourers, handled by Government companies of the likes of KEONICS. These workers – around 800 of them with basic computer qualifications, get paid an average of Rs.5000/- a month, have for long not been getting their salaries on time and haven’t seen their pay cheques for the last few months. Adding to this fragile situation is the uncertainty of their contract itself and the missing employee benefits of any kind. This is a recipe for distress for sure. For, in most cases it is the bread winner working and trying to make a living in the exorbitant city of Bangalore under these conditions.
Ward number 72’s BBMP office telephone operator Saraswathi (name changed by request) has a heart rending episode which encapsulates the plight of these workers. She works as a telephone operator with added responsibilities of all the office tasks and for the last ten months has not been paid a penny. “I have mortgaged all my jewels, to the last of the chunk to run my house, and there is no respite to this apathy” she says defiantly, yet. When asked why she has still hasn’t sought another job she is hopeful things would alleviate, “I have seen to it that my file moves through the bureaucracy and I cannot let go the hard work of these many months – sometime soon I will be paid and that might help me get out of all the debt caused until now.” Many more Saraswathis are being victimised in this reckless exploitation.
With no salary, provident funds, other rightful benefits or other sort of insurance these 800 or so workers’ plight has been continually ignored for few years now. A recurrent issue of this sort in the ‘knowledge hub and the IT haven’ is nothing but a shame and must be at once healed.
With none of their calls being given heed to, this sector of workers have organised now, recently in an attempt to collectively bargain their rights.
If I missed out stating one of the other natural consequences of the IT revolution, here it is – it accelerates the increasing disparity in the society, and the Bruhat Bangalore stands as a proof to this claim.