The pourakarmikas in Bangalore fail to obtain safety gear that is mandatory under the Swacch Bharat Mission.
By Astha Oriel
No provision of safety gear is jeopardizing the health of pourakarmikas in the city. No gloves, no masks and sometimes no apron, hinders their work as they complain of dust and foul smell while sweeping or collecting waste. Rajimaa, a pourakarmika working in T. Dasarahalli said, “Most of the time we get gloves,masks and slippers only once. The last time we got the gloves and masks was four months ago. We have complained numerous times but the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) officials do not listen to us.”
Guidelines of the Swacch Bharat Mission mandate safety measures for the municipal workers. These include provision of a set of gloves, masks, apron and shoes on a daily basis. The budget for the provision of safety measures is given by the state to the municipal corporation of the city.
Annamaa, a pourakarmika from ward 198 told The Softcopy, that due to the lack of such gear, they frequently fall sick. “A week back, I was suffering from severe cough and fever, because of the dust particles while working. I could not go to work for a week. And since I did not go to work, I was not paid.” She added, “We can’t afford to get sick. We have a family to provide for. Medical bills are additional expenses that we can’t afford. Also, if we fall sick often and remain absent from work, we will be sacked.”
In the wards that were surveyed by The Softcopy, the Pourakarmikas were neither wearing gloves nor masks while sweeping and picking up garbage.
Mrs. Manjula Rao, Solid Waste Management (SWM) expert of the BBMP, accepted the discrepancies in the provision of the safety gear. . We are aware that sometimes there is a delay in the provision of gloves and masks to them.” She added, “The BBMP is giving regular funds to the contractors for the provision of all the facilities. If the pourakarmikas are not getting facilities, it is because the contractors are not spending the funds properly.”
Lekha Adavi, who is an activist and advocate at the Alternative Law Forum, said, “The pourakarmikas should be given proper and regular wages, provision of dignified working conditions, enforcement of statutory rights and socio-political recognition.”