Day in, day out, the civic workers of the City put their health, sanitation and lives at risk to carry out their daily routines. From wading through un-segregated garbage to cleaning cogged sewer lines and manholes, these activities are often carried out without the necessary safety equipment.
Some workers say that this is because they aren’t provided with the required equipment while others admit that they don’t bother because the damage is equally bad with or without them. Metrolife speaks to workers and authorities regarding the same.
According to M Lakshminarayana, commissioner of BBMP, sanitary workers are not allowed to enter manholes physically as per the new regulations.
Reports show that this move was made after a series of unfortunate accidents while cleaning manholes manually, especially when the safety drill of working being equipped with safety gloves, helmets, ropes, gumboots and safety clothing were not followed.
“We are attempting to minimise manual scavenging completely because it isn’t safe and it’s inhuman to send anyone inside the drains to clean them. Instead, everything has become mechanised and the only manpower needed is to run the jetting machines we’ve got for each ward.
These are yellow lorries with long hose pipes that enter the drain and push the sludge and other particles out. If the citizens see any workers entering drains, they can inform the nearest officer who will look into it,” explains Lakshminarayana.
T Venkataraju, Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) engineer-in-chief, states that there are 126 jetting machines in working condition that are used on a daily basis. “Each of these machines cleans a minimum of three manholes a day. They are used between sunrise and sunset as the visibility is poor during other times.
But for the debris and accumulated solid oil particles that the machines don’t suck out, manual cleaning has to be done. A concerned supervisor ensures that the worker is wearing the proper safety equipment and only then sends them to do the final cleaning,” he notes.
When told that these workers often go into these manholes without so much as gloves and boots, he replies, “We are aware of this problem and are doing our best to educate the scavengers to use the safety equipment. Even the supervisors are being trained not to allow workers to enter the manholes without precautionary measures in place.”
But the workers themselves feel that it is pointless to use the equipment. “We are given a pair of gloves and boots with a helmet. But those don’t help in tolerating the stench in those manholes. The work gets done faster without them and we can get out sooner,” justifies a worker operating out of Koramangala who does not wish to be named.
It is clear that there is still a lot to be done when it comes to the education of these sanitary workers, who do the work that everybody else refuses to do.
But if that will happen without any more incidents of asphyxiation or fatalities is something only time can tell.