Don’t lose your bearing if you spot a couple of khaki-clad men cruising around in a garbage van on the streets of Thane. The policemen have been deployed to guard the vans and protect the temporary sweepers appointed by the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC), from assaults by the sweepers who struck work some 10 days ago.
Cops said that at a number of places, the disgruntled sweepers hit out the temporary staff, following which the police department -- at the behest of the TMC -- appointed two constables for each van to ensure their safety.
After sweepers and drivers working on garbage trucks (locally called ghantagadis) stopped work to protest measly pay, the TMC assigned the job to another set of workers for the time being. At some places, when the stand-in workers went to collect the garbage, the original staff stoned them.
“Around six incidents of stone-pelting have taken place in Thane area in the last 10 days since the sweepers working on ghantagadis went on strike,” said Sandeep Malvi, spokesperson for TMC.
Violent incidents have been reported at Varthak Nagar, Kopar and Godbunder Road.
“Thane municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta has asked the striking sweepers to first end the strike and the attacks on dumpers and then come to talk with the officials of TMC. But they are still on strike,” Malvi added.
In light of repeated acts of aggression, the TMC wrote to the Thane police about the attacks, seeking protection.
Balasaheb Patil, deputy commissioner of police, Zone V, Thane, said, “After regular attacks by sweepers on the temporary drivers working on TMC dumpers left many injured, even the provisional personnel threatened to stop work. In such an event, there was possibility of garbage pilling up in the city streets, spreading disease. So the TMC wrote to us seeking protection.”
Thereafter, two constables were deployed by the Thane police for each garbage dumper. “We have been assigned to sit in the dumper when it collects and drops garbage from every locality, and then leave the dumper. I am a graduate and because I did not get a job I joined the police.
But sitting in a dumper full of stink is troublesome. We hope the sweepers return to work soon,” said a police constable assigned the duty of guarding a dumper. “Till the time a decision is taken on our demands (of pay hike), we will not join back,” said Mahendra Hirwal, who works with the TMC ghantagadi.
Metric tonnes, the amount of waste that Thane city generate daily
Number of dumpers the TMC operates to collect and dump garbage from city