Driven out by Covid fear, Imphal sanitation workers seek temporary shelter

Considering the prevailing COVID-19 situation in Manipur, sanitation workers in Imphal area feel the need of a temporary shelter for them, in view of the risk factors in coming home after their day's work.

(File Photo: IFP Image)


Sanitation workers in Imphal have urged the state government to provide them a temporary shelter in view of the worsening COVID-19 situation in the state and so that they could continue their job of cleaning and collecting garbage and all waste materials.

The workers, who stay in rented accommodation are being told by their landlords to vacate the place. They also face the problem of becoming carrier of the virus when they come home and stay in contact with their family members. They worry about spreading the infection further.

Considering the prevailing COVID-19 situation, sanitation workers feel the need of opening a temporary shelter for them, in view of the risk factors in coming home after their day's work.

Sanitation works come under essential services and the workers are among frontline warriors.

As the situation of the pandemic has been worsening each day, they should be equipped with safety gears while performing their duties.

They, however, have been continuing their service by wearing only face masks, gloves and boots. Moreover, the state government did not take up any action to vaccinate them under the category of frontline warriors.

Owing to the present issues, the sanitation workers are not able to perform their cleanliness activities or garbage collection unlike normal days. The number of workers has also decreased drastically and consequently, the frequency of cleanliness service has been lessened.

One of the members of the Committee of IMC and Solid Waste Management, Waikhom Ananda Meitei said that unlike normal days, sanitation works could not be carried out. Working days for waste collection have been reduced due to the decrease in number of sanitation workers. The main problem is the workers do not have a place to stay due to the crisis caused by the pandemic, he added.

“The state government needs to provide a temporary shelter for the sanitation workers so they can continue their service smoothly. This will also help the workers to contain the virus as well," said Ananda, who is also the president of Workers' Union Manipur, one of the NGO for sanitation workers.

While mentioning the essence of sanitation work, he said that in a state like Manipur where people are less concerned about keeping the environment clean, the role of sanitation workers is very important.

Even during these critical days of the pandemic, people continue to dump their household waste at river banks and throw them along the roadside. With a limited number of workers, they still manage to give their service facing the challenges and risks, he added.

“Without sanitation workers, the steps taken up by the government to rejuvenate Nambul River and Loktak Lake would never be possible,” Ananda said.

“It is unfortunate that despite giving much of their service, the sanitation workers were not included in the vaccination programme held exclusively for the frontline warriors,” he added.

Speaking to the Imphal Free Press, Chingmeirong Maning Leikai Nupi Chaokhat Lup president Landoni said that considering the worsening condition of the pandemic, they decided to discontinue garbage collection work for a week. However, they requested their customer to segregate solid and wet waste materials separately so that they can collect them easily when the service is resumed.

Last year during the lockdown, they served the people unstoppably, but this time they are compelled to halt their service for some days as people are worried about letting the workers enter their localities and house premises, she added.

It may be mentioned that sanitation works are also outsourced to different NGOs, apart from Imphal Municipal Corporation (IMC). As per data from IMC, excluding the labourers and sweepers employed under the corporation, there are 140 labourers, 297 sweepers and 48 drivers from around 20 different NGOs who provide services of cleaning and waste collection in 27 IMC wards.

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First Published:May 24, 2021, 1:51 p.m.

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