The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday noted that there was a need for a policy decision to protect pourakarmikas (civic workers) in the state amidst the 21-day lockdown announced to check the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). The HC directed the state government to take extra measures to protect the workers engaged in collecting waste from households where people have been advised to remain in home quarantine, reported The Hindu.
Not only pourakarmikas, the HC said this should apply to all workers in the sector including all drivers and helpers of solid waste management. This includes auto tippers, lorries, tractors, contractors and workers employed in the dry waste collection centres and other solid waste management related establishments.
A bench led by Chief Justice AS Oka and Justice BV Nagarathna was listening to the matter via video conferencing, relating to containment measures to prevent spread of the COVID-19 disease.
After hearing that the BBMP is giving only Rs 100 as an additional allowance for transportation during this period, the HC noted this was not enough as there was no public transport. Instead, it asked BBMP to arrange transportation facilities for pourakarmikas across the state.
Further, the HC also ordered that these workers be given breakfast every day at their mustering points and that their working hours be restricted from 6:30 am to 10:30 am.
As part of the hearing, the state government said that all 17,767 pourakarmikas in the state have been provided with protective equipment such as two masks, gumboots and gloves.
For Bengaluru city specifically, the counsel for the civic body said that all pourakarmikas in the state have been given sanitisers and disinfectants in addition to the personal equipment. This was contested by the lawyer representing the BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) Pourakarmika Sangha.
The next hearing of the case will be on April 3.
In a press release, the BBMP Pourakarmika Sangha urged the state government to ensure that the orders of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka are implemented at the earliest, in letter and spirit, in the interest of the safety and welfare of the workers in these trying times.