Plea in SC seek protective gear for sanitation workers

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New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court seeking direction to state governments and Union Territories to ensure the protection of the right to life of sanitation workers, who are essential services providers, against the backdrop of nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of coronavirus.

The plea, filed by social activist and Delhi Commission for Safai Karamcharis former Chairman, Harnam Singh, contended the sanitation workers have been exempted from closure of services due to its “essential” nature.
The plea, filed through advocate Mehmood Pracha, sought direction to the governments to instruct all the agencies undertaking sanitation facilities, municipal boards, panchayats, cantonment boards, railway authorities, falling under its jurisdiction not to have any sanitation worker to carry out any cleaning activity in the absence of Covid-19 protective gear/personal protective equipment, which includes long-sleeved gown, gloves, boots, masks and goggles/face shield. The plea urged that this protective gear should be provided within a period of 24 hours, and for the testing of the workers and their immediate family within a period of 48 hours.
The plea contended that these workers are poorly-paid and live in densely-populated clusters. Therefore, if any worker were to contract the coronavirus infection, then chances are very high that this infection could spread in the entire cluster.
“The safai karamcharis/sanitation workers carry out the essential service of keeping every city, town and village clean, sweep the roads, carry waste from every household, clean sewers etc. In order to carry out said work, these safai karamcharis/sanitation workers are not equipped with any Covid-19 protective gear/Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to safeguard them from the highly infectious coronavirus,” said the plea.
The plea cited a technical brief and an internal guidance issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) stating the sanitation workers should wear appropriate PPE, which includes protective outerwear, gloves, boots, goggles or a face shield, and a mask while they carry out their respective duties.