AFTER THE Sunday Express report on the plight of conservancy staff, who clean choked nullahs without proper safety measures, Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar has directed the health department officials to ensure that protective gloves, face masks and gumboots are provided to all such employees.
The civic chief further asked the officials to submit a report on the same.
“During manual cleaning of nullahs, it is observed that safai karmacharis are not using protective handgloves or masks. Please make sure that protective gear is made available to all safai karmacharis, whether working under PCMC or contractual… Ensure compliance and submit report,” said the directive.
On Tuesday, Hardikar confirmed having issued the directive.
There are at least 1,800 PCMC employees, of which about 900 work on a contractual basis. These workers clean nullahs and stormwater drains across the length and breadth of the city every day.
Assistant Municipal Commissioner M Dandavate said protective gear have been disbursed to all employees at the divisional ward-level. “As per my information, we have been providing them with protective gear regularly. We also ensure that once the gear loses its quality, it is replaced,” he said.
Dandavate, however, added that safai karamcharis avoid using the protective gear. “Many of them complain that the face mask suffocates them, while the gloves make it difficult for them to hold equipment,” he added.
However, advocate Sagar Charan, who had filed the complaint with the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, said PCMC does not provide the gear to the conservancy staff on a regular basis.
“We have conducted a survey among the safai karamcharis. Many don’t remember the last time they were given the protective gear,” said Charan, who is also the vice-president of the Health Department Grievance Redressal Committee of PCMC.
He added that when a safai karamchari enters a nullah, legally, a sanitary inspector should be present at the spot in case any untoward incident happens. “However, in PCMC’s case, a sanitary inspector is rarely present at the site,” he said.
Besides, health check-ups of safai karmacharis are carried out as a routine job and hardly taken seriously, he added.
Charan reiterated that though manual scavenging is banned under the Manual Scavengers Act, the conservancy staff in Pimpri-Chinchwad is forced to do it.
“This is a violation of the law. We hope the commissioner takes serious note of this and directs the officials to immediately stop any kind of manual scavenging,” he said.