Monsoon brings into focus the plight of safai karamcharis

Come monsoon, and sanitary workers removing silt without gloves or gum boots become a common sight. Unmindful of stench and squalor, they toil to keep a city’s sewerage system working.

The recent visit of National Commission for Safai Karamcharis member Jagadish Hiremani to Guntur and Vijayawda has brought the focus on their plight.

Enraged seeing men and women workers scooping out silt with bare hands and depositing them on road margins, he ordered that the Municipal Health Officer and the contractor concerned be booked.

Safety first

The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, mandated that safai karamcharis should be provided protective gear, including rubber gloves, gum boots, masks and helmets, and emergency assistance. It also stipulated that local bodies ensure that they are paid minimum wages, have access to provident fund and Employees’ State Insurance.

In Guntur, there were more than 2,000 safai karamcharis, including 1,664 contract employees. AP Municipal Workers Union general secretary Kota Malyadri said that many worked without even the basic equipment like brooms, shovels and wheelbarrows. In Guntur West many carts, used for carry silt, were under repair.

Mentioning government order number 151 that raised the salary of safai karamcharis to Rs. 12, 500 a month, Mr. Malyadri said, “The workers are not even paid minimum wages. The GMC should implement equal pay for equal work rule and many do not have access healthcare.” He urged the GMC to conduct regular health checks-ups as most workers suffered from respiratory problems.

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