Opinion piece. Written by Khushii Choudhary, a grade 12 student
Sanitation workers are individuals whose jobs can include cleaning toilets, emptying pits and septic tanks, cleaning sewers and manholes and operating pumping stations and treatment plants. These people are the ones who are prone to this disease as they are the ones in contact with everybody. Sanitation workers have no hygiene facilities for themselves or their families neither can the fend for them.
These people have no proper living with stocks of food and a hygienic toilet. ONE toilet is used by each and every person of the slum which increases the possibility to get affected by this fatal disease. Even If one person of there area is tested positive of Covid 19, it can be said that the entire slum is affected due to the speed at which it spreads.
For e.g.; Dharavi, the biggest slum in the world, in Maharashtra, is on high alert as one worker was tested positive which means that thousands of citizens who live in the slum are already affected and are not even aware of it. Most women wash together every morning and collect water for the day. With no showers or bathrooms in their homes, this communal tap is their only water source. This may lead to the transfer of the virus through water which every family is using.
Sanitation workers are working day and night to keep the city clean and ensure that there is no transfer of the virus. They are the most affected physically and emotionally as they are the one who can be affected by it and since they wouldn’t want their family to be, they have stopped living in their own houses. Cleaners, are considered to provide an essential service, and are therefore exempted from the lockdown. No sanitation work has masks on them, nor do they wear gloves or caps for their own safety. There is no safe soap or sanitiser which they can use to avoid being affected.
Consequently, workers are faced with an agonizing dilemma: go out to work and risk infection, or stay home and unemployed and ultimately hunger.
These sanitation workers are the one ensuring the cleanliness of our country not only during this pandemic but always. They are at high risk to get affected and yet they are determined to clean the country and in turn they received brutal treatments by the locals. These workers were attacked while they were carrying out a cleanliness area in Madhya Pradesh, India. As a result, these workers struck work at a Muslim-Dominated area of the state to protest the attack. One of the workers had severe injuries and was admitted to a hospital.
Elevated risk of exposure
Cleaners, are considered to provide an essential service, and are therefore exempted from the lockdown.
Garbage collection in India is done in open bins wherein the sanitation workers collect the garbage from door-to-door. Then this garbage is then transported in open trucks, many-a-times spilling a bit on the whole route taken by the vehicle. This is a sure-fire method of spreading the contamination while the whole nation is maintaining social distancing. Maybe the little bits of garbage here and there do not pose such a health hazard in normal conditions, but I strongly feel that during the COVID-19 pandemic, it poses a huge risk to all, and most of all to the sanitation workers who are collecting the garbage, loading it on the trucks, and driving those trucks. All of this is done by the sanitation worker without any safety measures taken, without any gloves or masks or gowns.
No safety material mean they cannot protect themselves from the virus which may increase the chances of infection which they cannot get treated as they don’t have sufficient money.
Sanitation workers are safeguarding us from the corona virus, assuring our safety while there is nothing that is being done for their benefit. These workers are exposed to used not only faeces but also used hospital material which also increase the risk of not only corona virus but also other infections which can decrease their immunity and thus, make the further prone to this disease.
There are no special steps taken by the government for these people, their and their family’s safety. They should be provided with safety products for starters and should be given some benefits for their family’s future.
Sanitation workers are the most neglected people of the society, yet they are the most important ones as they keep our city and country clean.
Written by Khushii Choudhary