Citizens raise concern over sanitary workers' safety

On the job

Sanitary workers clean gutters in Hoodi without protective equipment, as children are left unattended.

Amid rising concern over the safety standards and general hygiene of Group D workers serving the city, brought to the fore of late by citizens and NGOs, the pourakarmikas are still deprived of basic protective gear.

Recently, Aditi Bhatnagar from East Bengaluru’s Hoodi shared photographs with DH where some Group D workers are seen desilting a drain without wearing hand gloves. Their children, meanwhile, are playing dangerously close to the drain. The images went viral on social media. Thereafter, many concerned citizens voiced dismay.

“I was about to call 100 when I saw these workers toiling in the gutter. However, I learnt that they were deployed by the civic body to clean up the drain. I saw women lifting heavy stones with their bare hands, men excavating dirty silt without wearing gloves and their children playing nearby dangerously unattended. This was totally disheartening to see,” said Aditi.

Many residents especially from Mahadevapura, from areas like Kundalahalli, Whitefield and others, shared similar stories where they were saddened by the plight of the pourakarmikas. As there is a blanket ban on manual scavenging, residents feel the sanitary workers are no less.

Citizens urged the civic bodies that employ Group D workers including garbage collectors, sweepers, drain workers and others, to better the safety and hygiene standards of the sanitary workers. The Bengaluru Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has instructed all executive engineers to make sure they provide the required safety gear such as hand gloves, uniforms, helmets, gumboots and the like for the drain cleaners.

“In fact a circular has been issued recently,” said BWSSB chief engineer Kemparamiah.

“We have come up with new bylaws for solid waste management. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) will ensure
that two pairs of uniforms, shoes, hand gloves, masks and other appropriate personal protective equipment are provided to all pourakarmikas including other eligible staff involved in waste management. The BBMP will also provide potable drinking water, toilets, changing rooms and first aid,” said an official.

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