Coronavirus outbreak: Now, NGOs refuse to clean community toilets across Mumbai

Updated: Apr 14, 2020, 18:51 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

Say BMC has not provided them with gear to protect workers from contracting COVID-19; some fear boycott by their neighbours

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

The NGOs that collect garbage in the slums have refused to cover for the BMC sanitation workers and clean the community toilets, citing absence of protective gear, assurance of incentives and fear of boycott from the society.

Last week, mid-day had reported that sanitation workers from the Solid Waste Management department refused to clean the community toilets at slums or the containment zones, fearing for their lives. The BMC had then pressurised the NGOs rope in their workers.

NGO workers reluctant
However, the NGO workers are reluctant to come forward for the job due to safety concerns arising from the lack of time to train and counsel the workers. There is also no clarity on the payment of the fourth-grade workers and contract or NGO employees as well. Though the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said they were trying their best to arrange the protective kits.

"Our work is to collect garbage in slums, clean small gutters, pathways and public toilets. There are many community toilets that are run by private groups. They collect money from users and maintain it. But now BMC suddenly asked us to disinfect the toilets," said Suvarna [name changed] who runs one NGO in Dahisar.

Dipti [name changed], who runs another NGO in the same area, said, "We are already grappling with manpower shortage as many of our workers come from Nalasopara and Virar, and we work only in one shift. Initially, the BMC asked us to sanitise the toilets and we did it twice a day. But now they have demanded that we sanitise it after every use." Dipti added that even if they are willing to help the BMC, the workers don't want to take the risk.

Suvarna said, "We are buying a mask for '30 and hand gloves for '50. The BMC provided the jackets. That's all. No one has given us safety kits. But we have to take care of our workers. We are answerable to their families."

'Who will take responsibility?'
"While we can understand the issue, the BMC is not providing any protection gear nor are they committing any incentives. How can daily-wagers work like this? Who is going to take responsibility for their life?" said Sheetal Mhatre, corporator from Dahisar.

An NGO employee, who works at Shastri Nagar, told mid-day that his neighbours fear contracting the virus from him. "Our neighbours think that they will also get infected if I go to work daily. Even my wife and mother don't allow me to work. So I have stopped going," he said.

Sandhya Nandedkar, assistant commissioner of R North ward, was not available for comment.

Data source: BMC; ward-wise area break-up courtesy Lokhandwala Oshiwara Citizen's Association

Mumbai's ward-wise COVID-19 hotspots (as of April 12)

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