There have been 16 deaths in the city due to leptospirosis in the past 10 days. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has now upped its efforts to control the rodent menace. It has a Rs 17 crore annual budget allocated for the same, but even with that considerable budget, the civic authorities are not looking into one vital aspect, providing safety gear to its workers. The Class IV employees who were on the streets placing rat poison did not have gloves, masks or gumboots, exposing them not only to leptospirosis, ironically the very scourge they are hoping to stop spreading but also zinc phosphide poisoning.
The BMC’s army comprises six Class IV employees from each ward, making it a total of 152. These employees are to identify rat holes, where they will place rat poison. The bait? Zinc Phosphide - a rodenticide that will kill the rat within 12 hours.
The rat bait is made mixing the zinc phosphide with wheat flour. Despite this being fraught with danger, the workers are not wearing gloves or masks while undertaking this job. It is shocking that the employees are not using basic safety gear. The civic authorities insist that they have been provided with gloves and masks, they admit that they must not be wearing them because they do not know how to do so.
A worker though insists that they have not been given the equipment, but they need the job and so, they have to make do with whatever is given or not given and do the job to support their family. While the arguments might fly to and fro, the BMC has to act swiftly and with urgency to see that the workers are togged out in full safety gear. The all-important gumboots are also mandatory. It is heinous to put employees at life-threatening risk while they do this work. As it is, they battle being looked down upon and this work is seen as necessary but workers are not treated with dignity. Civic authorities need to correct this lacunae and not a day too soon. While these workers are trying to save lives, let us put a premium on theirs too.