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Saturday, Dec 07, 2019

Monday Musings: Bring dignity in civic sanitary work

Why is a nation that is spending millions on bullet trains and moon missions neglecting basic hygiene in garbage handling?

pune Updated: Jan 21, 2019 14:44 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
The issue of unhygienic conditions of garbage handling still needs to be addressed aggressively.
The issue of unhygienic conditions of garbage handling still needs to be addressed aggressively.(HT PHOTO)

The National Commission for Backward Classes has issued summons to Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal commissioner Shravan Hardikar, IAS, for the neglect of sanitary workers at the municipal corporation. Hardikar has been charged with failing to provide the civic conservancy staff with basic essentials for garbage handling such as gloves, boots and masks. The neglect of women conservancy workers seems to be still worse as they have pointed to the absence of changing rooms and drinking water facilities.

Is anyone surprised at all? The common man is neither shocked nor surprised and to a large extent does not even find anything wrong with the sight of the conservancy staff working in the most unhygienic and distressing conditions.

This is true of all civic bodies, be it the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) or the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and even organisations like Swach, a cooperative of waste collectors.

The genesis of Swach lies in the Kagad Kaach Patra Kashtakari Panchayat founded by the eminent social worker Baba Adhav, and some faculty from SNDT Univesity, Pune. To be fair, Swach has done a lot for the welfare of waste pickers, especially women, but the issue of unhygienic conditions of garbage handling still needs to be addressed aggressively.

On the PCMC front, Hardikar has acknowledged that a number of complaints have been received and a redressal committee has been formed to address it. This newspaper promises to take a review after six months to see whether things have changed on the ground.

As pointed out by HT in its columns on January 19, the PCMC was planning to spend an astounding Rs. 6.5 crore to purchase smart watches for its conservancy staff “to keep a watch on their movement”. Fortunately, this hare brained proposal was shelved after it faced much criticism.

All would agree that the conservancy staff does not need smart watches as much as it needs gloves, boots, uniforms, face masks, soaps and sanitizers, decent washrooms and regular health checkups to bring better hygiene standards and dignity to their work.

It is extremely shameful that a country that is keen on spending thousands of crores of rupees on bullet trains, Hyperloop transportation and Man on Moon missions is neglecting basic hygiene standards of its staff in solid waste management.