No protective gear, place to sleep for them
Bengaluru: Adverse working conditions at Dry Waste Collection Centres (DWCCs) in JP Nagar have made workers vulnerable to infectious diseases. Delays in payment of salaries and lack of awareness about protective gear have added to their woes.
“The BBMP has not helped us. Everything from masks to soaps and ration comes from Hasiru Dala (an NGO),” said Ismail Pasha, an operator at a DWCC in ward 178. “There are eight people working here: Two drivers, two cleaners and four labourers. We don’t have water to clean our hands or even a functional toilet. The toilet is clogged for several days now and we have to sleep under a makeshift tent beside the garbage.”
Pasha lost his left thumb because an infected needle pricked it while he was working without gloves. “The infection had spread to the entire thumb, so they had to cut it. If I would have been late, the doctors would have had to cut my hand,” he added.
Hasiru Dala has been helping operators of the DWCCs to file payment receipts and get government subsidies. The NGO has been handing out soap, masks, gloves and other protective gear.
Indha Mahoor, Program Manager at Hasiru Dala, informed The Observer: “The only support we need from the BBMP is operational support, regular clearance of payment and upgradation of infrastructure. If these centres get this support, they will be able to work three times more efficiently.”
Pasha said he and his workers have not been paid in the past 10 months; they have only been able to survive on whatever support they get from Hasiru Dala.
“I don’t know anything about workers not being paid; the bills have been cleared,” said Narsaram Rao, Superintending Engineer, Solid Waste Management Cell, BBMP South Zone.
Dr Akshita Prasad, Head of Community Health Facilitator Program, said: “The pattern we have noticed is that they face more cardiovascular problems and are prone to contracting skin diseases, eczema being one of the common ones. Other than this, they also suffer from alcoholism and depression. These days, even young workers have depression problems.”
The World Health Organisation’s Health, Safety and Dignity of Sanitation Workers assessment report has laid down safety guidelines for garbage-collection workers. According to it, “Occupational and environmental health and safety are important because sanitation workers are exposed to multiple occupational and environmental hazards. Weak legal protection results from working informally, lack of occupational and health standards, and weak agency to demand their rights. Financial insecurity is a great concern because typically, informal and temporary sanitation workers are poorly paid, and income can be unpredictable. Social stigma and discrimination exist, and in some cases, are experienced as total and intergenerational exclusion.”
“The working conditions are to be blamed. Awareness campaigns and proper attention need to be given to the workers,” Dr Prasad added.
Narsaram Rao said: “The BBMP has already conducted several seminars with these workers to make them aware. The renovation work of these Dry Waste Collection Centers is underway and will be completed soon.”