Bengaluru sanitation workers allege lack of safety gear amid Covid, demand masks, gloves

According to Nirmala M, the President of the BBMP Pourakarmika Sangha, the sanitation workers are being exposed to a more "severe and deadlier" strain of the virus ever since the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit Bengaluru.

Sanitation workers, including those deployed to collect medical waste, under Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) have alleged that they have not been provided sufficient masks or gloves despite raising a demand with the authorities. “With almost 2 lakh active cases, our members who handle medical waste of those in home isolation are in a terrible situation. They have not been given any mask/gloves since last year despite asking for them repeatedly,” the BBMP Pourakarmika Sangha alleged.

According to Nirmala M, the President of the Sangha, the sanitation workers are being exposed to a more “severe and deadlier” strain of the virus ever since the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic hit Bengaluru.

“It has to be noted that the plight of the workers have to be kept at utmost importance at this stage of the pandemic, bearing in mind that the pourakarmikas are at such high vulnerability to Covid-19 infection. Despite this, we have chosen to stand by the BBMP to ensure cleanliness throughout the city,” Nirmala added.

 

They complained that the sanitation workers were also not provided with transport facilities to mustering centres. “There has been no proper toilet facilities, water, soaps, or sanitisers at these centres as well despite us working throughout the pandemic,” said Ratna, who is deployed at BBMP Ward number 55.

The Sangha has written to the BBMP Chief Commissioner, Special Commissioner (SWM), and the Joint Commissioner (Health & SWM) requesting transportation facility for workers to mustering centres during the ongoing lockdown. They also demanded daily health check-up and screenings, sick leave with pay, risk allowance and quarantining facilities if a pourakarmika tests positive.

The sanitation workers have also pointed out that several households mix medical waste with others, failing to segregate waste properly. “We are often forced to segregate it ourselves which increases the risk of handling such waste items,” another worker added.

“An explicit public order is to be issued by the BBMP mandating segregation of waste in the lines with the Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016. The said order must also make it clear that pourakarmikas are under no obligation to collect waste where it is not segregated,” the letter mentioned.

On April 14, Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa had distributed safety vests, new uniforms and equipment to some sanitation workers. A senior BBMP official had then told Indianexpress.com, “We will distribute these to pourakarmikas at a zonal-level within a week while the same for other officers will be made available within two months.” However, this process is yet to be taken up by BBMP “on the right course”, workers alleged.

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