The Bombay High Court recently directed the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) to file an affidavit about the number of masks, gloves and hand sanitisers it possessed before the lockdown and procured after that, and a break-up of the gear distributed till date to contractual workers.
A single-judge Bench of Justice S.J. Kathawalla was hearing a petition filed by Samaj Samata Kamgaar Sangh on behalf of 6,277 contract workers engaged by the NMMC in health, waste management and other departments.
The petition has urged the court to direct the authorities to arrange for good quality gloves, N95 masks, hand sanitisers and personal protective equipment for all workers, and water connections at all Hazeri sheds. It has sought a daily allowance of ₹300 to contract workers as well.
The petitioner told the court that 3,261 of the 6,277 workers are involved in solid waste management work. They handle garbage with their bare hands and are not provided water to clean their hands and feet. They are only provided two to three drops of hand sanitisers at the Hazeri sheds at the start and end of their shift.
Another 693 workers are on duty at four civic-run hospitals and 23 urban health posts, while 65 are on cemetery cleaning duty.
The lawyer appearing for the Sangh told the court that despite providing essential services and regularly reporting to work, the workers were only provided masks and hand gloves on one occasion, and that too of poor quality.
The court was also told that the deputy municipal commissioner, solid waste management, visited Hazeri sheds and noted that the workers’ problems needed to be addressed at the earliest. However, no action was taken thereafter.
The court has also directed the NMMC to disclose under oath how often protective equipment provided to workers is replaced, and the names and addresses of the individuals/companies from whom the gear is purchased, and at what price.