Treat conservancy staff with dignity

Members of the Municipal Workers Union allege that, despite several deaths taking place, the civic body has been flouting the 2006 High Court directive asking it to provide staffers cleaning manholes with safety gear such as earplugs, safety goggles, oxygen masks, gloves and gumboots.

This paper’s reporter visited a number of sites but observed that the workers had entered the manholes without safety gear. One was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and had been lowered into the manhole with the help of a rope held by his colleagues.

The extensive report in this paper yesterday had a number of officials denying that workers were sent to clean sewerage lines without adequate safety measures. Yet, the evidence belies these words.

These conservancy workers must be given better working conditions and facilities. First up, of course, is safety. Full equipment including special clothing is the need of the hour.

Then, they need earplugs, goggles to safeguard vision and ensure better sight during their work, oxygen masks which are very important given the toxic fumes, gloves and protective footwear like gumboots. The commercial capital of a nation that stands on the cusp of becoming one of the best economies in the world, should be ashamed that it cannot provide such fundamental safety measures to its workers.

Statistics have shown that there have been a number of casualties amongst these workers because of the toxic fumes they inhale. Their lifespan, too, is short given the nature of their work. While even basic safety measures are absent, this may be a long shot but civic authorities must ensure that they have some medical help or allowance in their lifetime.

A lack of facilities further strips away their dignity. Their job is looked on as demeaning by society, and this lackadaisical and, frankly, inhuman attitude by the superiors are a further stripping away of the shreds of dignity they cling to.

This needs urgent attention and remedial action right now.

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