As many as 30 pourakarmikas in Bengaluru have tested positive for the coronavirus and five sanitation workers have succumbed to death, outgoing Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) Commissioner BH Anil Kumar told TNM.
The revelation comes amid protests by sanitation workers and activists in Bengaluru against the death of P Shilpa, 28, a pourakarmika working in Vishwanath Nagenahalli (Ward 22) in the city. Her father, MC Srinivas, said that he tried reaching out to seven hospitals after Shilpa's COVID-19 test result came positive on Wednesday, but he was refused admission.
Eventually, Shilpa was admitted to Dr BR Ambedkar Medical College but a ventilator was not available for her. She passed away in the early hours of Thursday.
BH Anil Kumar told TNM that there were three pourakarmikas who tested positive for COVID-19 in Vishwanath Nagenahalli and that randomised testing of sanitation workers would be carried out in places where cases were reported.
Srinivas told TNM that a pourakarmika in Kaval Byrasandra had tested positive for COVID-19 before his daughter Shilpa's death.
Pourakarmikas protest in Bengaluru on July 10 2020
The developments come a week after pourakarmikas in the city held a protest on July 10, calling for protective equipment like gloves and masks to be given to them. Pourakarmikas are cleaning the streets of the city even in containment zones as well as in places where COVID-19 patients are isolated at home.
‚ÄúPourakarmikas are working in containment zones. As per protocol, they are provided protective equipment, including masks and gloves. We have been conducting randomised testing of pourakarmikas in the last few weeks,‚ÄĚ Anil Kumar added.
Candlelight vigil by pourakarmikas in Bengaluru, July 17 2020
Speaking to TNM, several pourakarmikas said that they received protective equipment, but it was not updated periodically by the BBMP. The pourakarmikas also said that they were handling waste, including masks and gloves thrown away by people, particularly outside healthcare centres.
Earlier, 23 out of 80 pourakarmikas in Bengaluru's Deepanjali Nagar had tested positive for the virus. The Karnataka High Court on Thursday urged the BBMP to conduct more randomised tests for pourakarmikas. The court asked the state government to appoint G Kumar Naik, an IAS officer, to supervise the BBMP's work in following procedures within containment zones.