In last six years, 1,386 conservancy workers of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) lost their lives, according to recent data revealed by the civic body. With the growing number of deaths every year, the solid waste management or SWM department of the civic body has now commissioned a study to assess the reasons for it.
“Since the numbers are very high, we have set up a separate cell under the supervision of Dr Amita Athavale from KEM hospital to undertake the study and understand the reasons for the deaths. We asked them to undertake the study last month. Once we get the report, we will also look into solutions for the same,” said Prakash Patil, deputy municipal commissioner (SWM department).
There are more than 35,000 conservancy workers employed with the civic body, most of them have been hired on contractual basis.
From cleaning every road, footpath and nullah to scooping garbage and ferrying trucks to the dumping grounds where they would unload it again, conservancy workers are involved in every cleaning activity in the city. The highest number of deaths were reported in 2010, when 322 conservancy workers, also known as safai karamcharis lost their lives. In 2014 alone, 93 workers lost their lives.
“On the one side, the BMC named Amitabh Bachchan as the brand ambassador to create awareness on tuberculosis, but on the other side, their own conservancy staff are dying of the disease. The corporation gives workers accommodation under ‘Ashray Yojana’ after 20 years of service, but most workers die before they even complete the term. It is the civic body’s responsibility to provide them medical care and improve their working conditions, but it is completely apathetic towards their situation,” said Devendra Amberkar, opposition leader and Congress corporator. Amberkar also wrote a letter to Municipal Commissioner Sitaram Kunte to take immediate cognisance of the issue.
Speaking to Newsline, safai karamchari leader Ramesh Halankar said, “Most of the conservancy workers suffer from heart diseases and TB. Some of them are mentally disturbed, while some suffer from paralysis. The civic authorities do not provide proper medical care to the workers. Even doctors do not pay attention, thinking they are drunkards. As a result, most of them die at a very young age. There is a need to look at the whole issue in a more humanitarian way.”
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