HEALTH AND safety of sanitation workers in the City Beautiful is not on the priority of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation if the high rate of mortality is an indicator.
In the last 96 months, around 250 regular sanitation workers of the civic body, largely regular workers and in the age group of 35 to 50 years, have died due to various ailments. Forty-five-year-old Hawa Singh, a regular sanitation worker, became the latest casualty on Saturday.
Hawa Singh, the lone bread earner of family of six, vomited blood after returning home from his duty. Although the exact cause of death could not be ascertained as post-mortem was not conducted, his death underscored the fact that the sanitation workers are vulnerable and unprotected.
The Chandigarh Municipal Corporation has a total of 3,374 sanitation workers, including those working on a contract basis. The corporation has failed to adequately address the health hazards related to the occupation.
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Slamming the corporation, Kishan Kumar Chadha, president of Akhil Bharatiya Safai Majdoor Union, points out that there is no health programme for the sanitation workers. “Workers have to spend from their pockets for their treatment,” he said.
Medical officer health (MOH) Dr P S Bhatti said a general medical camp was organised recently where medical check-up of around 500 sanitation workers was done. They would start special health camps for sanitation workers shortly.
The common ailments found in sanitation workers include skin infections, respiratory problems, lung diseases, chest infections and tuberculosis (TB).
Satinder Singh, MC councillor, had taken up the issue of high death rate of sanitation workers in the House meeting held on July 22, 2015. The then MC commissioner Bhawna Garg had assured the House that a study would be got done from UT social welfare department to ascertain the main causes of death of sanitation workers and the status report would be placed in the House within two months. However, nothing has happened.
“High death rate is a serious issue and there is a dire need to take corrective steps. Sanitation workers need medical facilities the most. Dispensaries under the control of municipal corporation should conduct regular medical check-up of sanitation workers quarterly and the sanitary inspector should also ask the workers to obtain certificates from the dispensaries for their medical check-up.”
According to the standards of safety, workers should be wearing uniforms, rubber gloves and masks while performing their duty. Contrary to the norms, the workers are seen performing their duty without safety gear.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Urban Development, in its report which was tabled in Rajya Sabha on May 2, had observed that the workers were not provided any safety kits like gloves and masks while handling the waste for collecting or processing at landfill site. It has strongly advocated that the safety kits like gloves, masks etc should be compulsorily provided to the workers.
However, Joint Commissioner Rajiv Gupta asserts that the workers have been provided all the safety gear, but they don’t wear it as they feel uncomfortable in them. For their health, the civic body provides each sanitation worker six soap bars, 2 kg jaggery and 2 litre mustard oil per month.
Surinder Bahga, a member of the sanitation committee of the Municipal Corporation, alleges that the sanitation workers deployed across the city are not provided with any safety equipment by the corporation. “The corporation is putting their lives at risk by not proving them proper safety kits,” he said.