Mumbai: 28,000 conservancy staff don't have gloves, shoes since four years

Workers say BMC has failed to provide them protective gear, claim it has even failed to reimburse those who purchased it from their own money

It appears that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) refuses to learn from its previous mistakes, and seems to be repeating them time and again. Thanks to the lethargic approach of the civic administration, the lives of 28,000 BMC conservancy workers is in danger.

BMC conservancy workers use plastic bags as gloves to clean garbage at Byculla. Pic/Bipin Kokate
BMC conservancy workers use plastic bags as gloves to clean garbage at Byculla. Pic/Bipin Kokate

It has been learnt that the civic body has failed to provide staffers with protective gear like masks, hand gloves, protective shoes, gumboots, uniforms and towels, for the last four years. What’s worse, the BMC is yet to reimburse workers who purchased the gear in the year 2011-12 and 2012-13 from their own pocket.

In was only after several follow-ups in 2013 from the Municipal Majdoor Union (MMU), that the BMC issued a circular and agreed to repay the workers for the year 2011-12 and 2012-13. However, there is still no word from the civic officials about payment or providing the gear to the workers for the year 2013-14 and 2014-15.

MMU Working President N R Maharnawar, who had been following-up the issue with the officials, said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ and appealed to make the country garbage-free in the next five years. How can this be achieved, if the protection of workers responsible for this cleanliness isn’t ensured?

In 2007, the Bombay High Court instructed the BMC to adhere to the protective norms and provide them (conservancy staffers) with municipal chowkies that are equipped with potable water, toilets and changing rooms. But nothing has happened till date.” Maharnawar added that changing rooms at the existing municipal chowkies are filthy and there are no separate rooms for men and women.

'Nobody cares for us'
A conservancy worker from Byculla said, “On several occasions, I have purchased the protective gear with my own money. Despite promising to compensate, the BMC has done nothing till date. Everyone blames us when they see any garbage lying on the roads, but nobody cares for our protection or betterment.”

The other side
Deputy Municipal Commissioner, Prakash Patil, said, “The delay is due to lack of communication from the Central Purchase Department. They are neither responding, nor giving reasons for the delay.

It is their job to purchase these equipment.” Siraj Ansari, chief engineer of Solid Waste Department, said, “Yes, there has been a delay in reimbursing the staff. But we have now started giving money for the year 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. Some of them have already received their payments.

We are even trying to upgrade the existing municipal chowkies. There are 240 municipal chowkies all over the city, and they lack basic amenities like clean drinking water, toilets and separate changing rooms for women staffers.”

1,348
Number of conservancy who workers died after developing health complications in the last five years

93
Workers who died in 2014

322
Number of deaths in 2010

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