Coronavirus in Mumbai: BMC sanitation workers refuse to clean up containment areas

Updated: 10 April, 2020 07:03 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

With the municipal employees refusing to pick up garbage from containment zones across the city, the civic body is applying pressure on private NGOs to get the task done

A sanitation worker wears PPE during garbage collection in the Parel containment zone
A sanitation worker wears PPE during garbage collection in the Parel containment zone

Fearing for their lives, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) sanitation workers have refused to collect garbage from containment areas. They have also been asked to clean quarantine facilities and are reluctant to do so, as they say it is not their job

It is learnt that the already burdened ward level officers have now pressured employees of some NGOs that collect garbage in slums, to do the BMC's work.

There are in all 25,000 sanitation workers of the Solid Waste Management Department.

"We are bound to sweep public areas like roads and not private areas like quarantine centres. Besides, most of the workers are unaware of the precautionary measures. No one has the time and even cares to give training. We could spread the virus to our families also," said one of the workers from H east ward. Many workers are also not working as they have to collect garbage from containment zones.

A BMC quarantine centre at Borivli. file pic
A BMC quarantine centre at Borivli. file pic

The workers are reluctant to do the job despite getting an additional Rs 300 per day. One of the reasons for this is inadequate Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). "There were no protection kits other than masks and gloves. Three days back, workers of F south (Parel, Lalbaug) ward received protection suits. But they are not trained on how to wear and especially how to take them off. Officers have told workers that they cannot give them a new set of suits worth R2,700 every day. So workers have to take it home, wash it and wear it the next day," said Milind Ranade, general secretary of Kachara Vahtuk Shramik Sangh. He added that after they agitated, BMC officials claimed the suits would be collected from them, washed and given back to them. But workers said they don't know if they will actually be washed or given back as they were.

'Poor quality of PPE'

"The quality of PPE is very poor. Many nurses have already opposed it. There aren't enough sanitisers available. The administration is only issuing orders for workers saying they are bound to be on duty or will face serious punishment. But they don't care about their safety," said Sanjay Kapase, joint secretary of Municipal Majdur Sangh.

'BMC pressuring NGOs'

"Now BMC officers have started pressuring workers with NGOs which collect garbage from slums. They don't have a union and cannot oppose," said Ranade. Another union leader claimed that while BMC workers get Rs 300 extra every day, these workers get Rs 150 extra.

A sanitation worker collects garbage in F South ward
A sanitation worker collects garbage in F South ward

"While other corporations ensure up to Rs 1 crore insurance, the BMC is not ready to give Rs 50 lakh insurance for workers in this situation," said Ramakant Bane, general secretary of The Municipal Union.

"The BMC administration is aware of the situation and provides security kits to every employee. If there are any issues I will look into them," said Ashok Khaire, Deputy Municipal Commissioner.

25,000
No. of sanitation workers in the BMC

R150
Extra sum NGOs pay each worker per day

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First Published: 10 April, 2020 07:00 IST

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