In an absurd move to encourage family planning among its staff, the BMC has struck down all paid recovery leave that its employees have been entitled to if afflicted by life threatening diseases like cancer and tuberculosis. A circular dated Aug 10 states that no staffer with more than two children will be eligible for this benefit.
BMC conservancy staffers are often exposed to deadly chemicals, viruses and bacteria that can trigger TB or cancer of other lethal diseases. Representation pic
Under the Mumbai Municipal (Service) Regulations, 1989, the BMC would grant one year of paid leave to any employee suffering from lethal diseases like cancer and tuberculosis. This is counted as one of the additional employee benefits under Rules 191 to 203.
However, on August 10, the general administration department (GAD) of the civic body issued a circular stating that this benefit would be limited to those with no more than two kids. The circular cited Rule number 202, which states that family planning is necessary for all government employees. This applies to anyone who has had more than three kids since November 2010.
Cleaners are worst hit
This decision has come as a bolt from the blue for all employees, but the worst hit will be the conservancy staffers who are often exposed to fatal diseases on the job, either while cleaning hospitals or other public spaces or while clearing out garbage or during other such hazardous duties. These workers figure among the lower ranks of the civic body and earn far less than the other employees. When they fall ill, they cannot afford to take time off from work to recover if their pay is cut.
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A senior civic official from health department said, “The conservancy staff will be the worst affected. Staffers working in hospitals or cleaning, sweeping and lifting garbage are more prone to TB and other deadly diseases. During treatment, they used to get their regular salary, which helped their family’s daily needs.”
“This new rule has led to low morale among the workers, many of whom are already suffering from diseases. In such diseases, treatment is expensive. If they don’t get their salary, how they are going to bear the cost of treatment?” added the official.
Out of the 1.15 lakh employees working in the BMC, there are more than 27,000 conservancy staffers who work day and night to keep the city clean.
According to the figures available with BMC, however, well over 1,000 of them have lost their lives to disease over the past six years.
“Already we are in a very bad situation, as there is always a shortage of safety equipment on the job. Instead of carrying out reforms to upgrade facilities for employees, the BMC is issuing such a circular,” said a cleaner from Byculla.
Despite repeated attempt, Additional Municipal Commissioner, in charge of health department, IA Kundan was not available for comment. However, Deputy Municipal Commissioner Sudhir Naik, in charge of the department that issued the circular, told this reporter that they were merely following the directions of the state government.
“The circular was issued in order to follow the changes made by the state for government employees in 2010,” he said.
Until 2010, the state provided additional benefits to workers who had up to three children. In order to encourage employees to practise family planning, this was reduced to two children.
Circular pits workers against BMC
Advocate Navnath Maharanwar, Municipal Karamchari Union
This is an absolutely unacceptable move. The circular will affect the conservancy workers the most. We will raise this issue with senior officials and try to undo it.
Deputy Municipal Commissioner Sudhir Naik, General administration department, BMC
There are enough schemes to help conservancy staff in case of diseases like TB — insurance of upto Rs 5 lakh for each employee and free treatment in BMC hospitals.
No of staffers who died of TB, cancer from 2010 to 2015