Pourakarmikas in Bengaluru held a protest on Friday raising the issue of their safety during the COVID-19 crisis.
Protests were held in locations across Bengaluru where pourakarmikas register their attendance everyday for the day's work. The protest comes after 23 pourakarmikas tested positive for coronavirus in a randomised testing done by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) last week.
"We are protesting with small groups of 5-10 people assembling at the place where they record thieir attendance everyday," Nirmala M of the BBMP Pourakarmikara Sangha told TNM.
The civic workers are asking for adequate protective equipment and for payment promised during the lockdown. "We are asking for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) including gloves, masks and sanitisers to be given everyday. We are also asking for pourakarmikas working in containment zones to be given protective suits," Nirmala said.
Randomised testing was done on 94 sanitation workers in BBMP's west and south zone, two areas of the city where the highest number of cases have been reported. "If a pourakarmika tests positive, how can the family afford charges of testing and treatment? The state government should announce plans to test and treat pourakarmikas," she added.
Nirmala added that thermal screening of pourakarmikas should take place everyday and that the compensation of Rs 100 per day as transport allowance promised by the state government during the lockdown period should be disbursed to them.
Pourakarmikas do the crucial tasks of disposing waste in the city and in the last three months, pourakarmikas in Bengaluru are carrying out these tasks even near homes where people are quarantined. Uma, a pourakarmika working in Indiranagar told TNM that she has observed a large number of disposable masks being thrown away. "People who visit hospitals in particular are throwing their masks when they come outside. We are currently packing these along with dry waste," she says.
Pourakarmikas were provided masks and gloves by the BBMP but the workers say that the equipment was not periodically updated.