Pune: The death of a sanitation worker in the city, on Wednesday, who died due to suffocation while cleaning a sewer, proved that the safety and health of this section of workers is highly neglected.
Speaking on the issue, Mukta Manohar, leader of the workers union of Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) said sanitation workers carry out important and dangerous tasks. However, they aren't provided with any protective gear.
“Cleanliness is not just sweeping, as most political leaders seem to think. The other tasks of the sanitation works are neglected. Lives of people are at stake while cleaning sewers, but nobody takes seriously the challenges faced by them," she said, adding, "Even if the protective gear is provided to them, they are of poor quality.”
She said, “The option of mechanising this work with the help of technology is not viable in India as the condition of the sewages is very bad. So it is the responsibility of the government to take care of the people who risk their lives to carry out this work.”
Manohar said no sanitation worker all come from the backward exploited classes.
"A man's life has no value here,” Milind Ranade, a textile engineer who is a general secretary of the Mumbai's sanitation workers' union said while reacting to the incident.
He added, “According to a ruling by Gujarat High Court, it is mandatory to check whether the gases in the sewer are safe, toxic or inflammable, before letting a sanitation worker enter inside. The oxygen level in the sewer needs to be checked. Also, the worker shouldn't be let inside without a harness, and paramedics should be present at the site of work considering that any emergencies that might occur. However, hardly anybody follows these instructions.”
The sanitation workers come from backward classes, are illiterate and often unaware of their rights. This, Ranade said, enables the stakeholders to get away by giving them unfair treatment, with least consideration to their health and hygiene.