Sanitation workers – our real heroes

Anmol Sheraz

PESHAWAR: Although, most of us are continuing to stay at home and maintain social distancing, but many of us are not so fortunate to do it and that’s why they are at the big risk of Coronavirus. However, they are our real heroes who keep our surrounding environment neat and clean despite the lockdown and different types of troubles, and they are our sweepers, janitors, cleaning crews and housekeeping workers, who are fighting on the frontline amid the prevailing situation. But, despite this, they are the most subjugated and marginalized segment of our society.

Similarly, as they are very low category workers, so they face many types of  hidden events and situations, such as abusive words or behavior from their masters, while, mostly they are hired through contracts with provision of none of their rights as workers.

“I get Rs 15000 per month and I work 12 hours a day,” a female sweeper told this scribe. “Though our salaries are not even paid timely and it depends on the officer’s temperament due to which sometimes I get my salary after two or three months,” she added.

“If any of us asks for our salary in time or for the provision of safety kits, the officer blames the government for it and he does not take it’s responsibility. Presently, a sweeper was identified with Coronavirus, but the officer asked her to keep doing the job normally and just wear gloves and wash your hands properly,” she continued.

Beyond fighting with Coronavirus pandemic, the sanitation workers face other risks too. They come across handling corrosive chemicals, heavy objects, and have to take care of potentially contagious garbage. Presently, they are in open contact with Coronavirus, but many of them claim that they are not being provided specialized training and safety kits. 

A janitor told, “My coworkers suffered from eye and skin irritation while doing disinfected spray in a hospital but no proper treatment was provided to them, adding that doctors in many cities have denied going to hospitals because of the non-provision of safety kits, whereas, the sanitary workers are forced to keep doing their job without any safety measure.”

“In the hospital, we are not being provided with protective tools,” another sweeper at a government hospital told. “The management does not treat us as humans even in this critical situation,” he maintained.

It is a reality that like healthcare workers the sanitation workers are the first respondents to all types pandemics including the Corona outbreak, while we are staying at home and maintaining social distancing to keep ourselves safe and healthy. Therefore, they should be appreciated and encouraged by providing them their due rights in order to get success in this fight against Corona.

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