“I prepare food only once a day because I can’t afford to cook for a second time,” said Santosh, wife of Prempal who died last year along with two other MC workers while cleaning a manhole in the city.
After her husband’s death last year, life has become difficult for Santosh who has to feed five small children. “Life is difficult now. My husband died because of lack of safety measures. We were paid Rs 2 lakh then. We are still awaiting more compensation,” she told Chandigarh Newsline.
Prempal died along with two other MC workers Dhan Singh and Ashrafi in May last year. Their families are now living in a slum near Mansa Devi complex.
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After the incident, it was only after the protests by the families that the wives of three men were given jobs on contract at Shivalik park in Manimajra. “We are being paid Rs 7,000 every month. How can I manage my family with this kind of money?” asked Sunita, wife of Ashrafi. “At times, I don’t have money to treat my sick children.”
Ravita Kherwal, state convener of the Safai Karamchari Andholan, an NGO, which took the case of sewage workers to the Supreme Court, maintains that the administration, according to rules, has to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to each victim. “They don’t have money. They need help. After the incident last year, the government has not done much for them,” Kherwal told Chandigarh Newsline.
She said that they had given a memorandum to the administration about the problems. “These are murders and those who are behind them should be punished,” she added.
What is adding to the worries of the three families are the rumours that their slum in Mansa Devi is soon going to be demolished. “I don’t know what to do now. There is more trouble coming up for us and no one is there whom we can approach for help,” said Sunita.
They blame the local administration for not helping them. “I lost my son because he didn’t get proper treatment at the hospital and my house. I used to work in the park and then there was no one to take care of him,” said Harvati, wife of Dhan Singh. “I lost my son in front of eyes and I couldn’t do anything.”