Guwahati: Concern Over City Sanitation Workers Not Using Protective Equipment at Work
GUWAHATI: Sanitation workers and those involved in collection and disposal of waste under the NGOs appointed by the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) have been seen not to be wearing proper protective equipment while at work and this raises an important question. Is the safety of frontline workers being compromised or completely neglected?
While distributing gloves to waste workers in Guwahati, the seriousness of the entire situation, given the present COVID-19 scenario, caught the attention of Ittisha Sarah, who runs an initiative of her own called the Northeast Waste Collective, post which she expressed her resentment on Facebook along with pictures.
Sanitation workers working at the GMC waste collection point at the RG Baruah Road and in various other parts of the city, she believed, did not have personal protective equipment (PPE) - not even gloves. “Neither gloves nor protective equipment were provided to them by any one; not by the government and nor the NGOs they work for,” she added.
To this, Utpal Sarma Baruah, an official from GMC, clarified that workers have been provided with adequate protective gear but they seldom use them. “There are two categories of workers involved with collection of wastes in the city. The first is directly engaged by the GMC and the second category comprises workers engaged by 90 NGOs that clear the garbage of the entire city,” he said. “Although we have directed NGOs to provide the labourers with proper protective gear, perhaps some may not have done so,” the official clarified.
Sarah’s NGO is among the first to take up the initiative of distributing gloves and PPE to sanitation workers and to those working with collection and disposal of waste across the city.
Further, in a related issue, Sarah came across the GMC waste collection point near Nursery on RG Baruah Road (Zoo Road). Looking at the mess and with the intent to draw some attention to it, she started clicking pictures of the site. While doing so, she noticed a bag that clearly stated “Clinical Infectious Wastes.” She suspected that hospitals from nearby localities to be behind this disposal of bio-medical wastes there. “If that is the case, then this clearly would have been a violation of Bio-Medical Waste Management Rules, 2016,” she wrote on her much-followed Facebook post.
G Plus got in touch with a few hospitals in the vicinity and found that their clinical wastes were being managed and discarded as per guidelines issued by the Pollution Control Board and related authorities and not dumped as normal garbage on the roadside or at any GMC Waste Collection points. Even the NGOs collecting wastes were said to be very well aware of what kind of wastes could and could not be dumped at GMC Waste Collection Points across Guwahati.
“I have myself taken stock of the situation and probed into the matter,” asserted Pulak Mahanta, Joint Commissioner, Guwahati Municipal Corporation. “There were no bio-medical wastes from hospitals present at that Waste Collection Point. Hospitals are supposed to dispose off these wastes by themselves; our NGOs are also well aware of that,” he added.
On being questioned about the images clicked by the social worker, the Joint Commissioner said, “We did find one bag there as shown in the images (clicked by the welfare worker), but the bag did not contain any infectious chemical wastes. Someone had discarded other trash in that bag.” Assuring the same once again Mahanta affirmed, “I’ve checked the matter and I will soon get a report of the entire thing but one thing is sure that there was no hospital waste there.”
- Sanitation Workers
- Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC)
- personal protective equipment (PPE)