The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike has been in a state of turmoil during the COVID-19 pandemic as cases rise in Bengaluru. Sanitation workers or pourakarmikas in Bengaluru have so far protested not being given enough protection on their job. On Thursday, a pourakarmika named Shilpa lost her life, after backlash from citizens and the union alike over Friday, the civic body has decided to ramp up health checks among workers on Saturday morning.
After pourakarmika Shilpa lost her life, the BBMP on Friday issued her family a cheque of Rs 10 lakhs as compensation. Her family had complained of delayed medical assistance as the cause of her death.
BBMP faces pressure as pourakarmikas succumb to COVID-19
Since June over 80 pourakarmikas tested positive for COVID-19, so far 5 have died. PK Shilpa who worked in in ward no. 22 lost her life on Thursday in Bengaluru. Her father had told the media that 7 hospitals refused to admit her and the 8th hospital didn't have a ventilator to spare.
The sad demise of the sanitation worker, has angered the union of workers who've been now for the past few weeks demanding for protective gear for their safety.
The Pourakarmikas insisted that they are as much in the frontline handling waste and are out in the open exposing themselves to infection on their job. Moreover, they don't have the financial capacity to incur costs for treatment if they do fall ill and have mouths to feed. Their dilemma persists even with BBMP's lack of response on the matter, therefore public pressure forced the civic body to do something about the situation.
On Thursday the Karnataka High Court had pulled the BBMP up over randomised testing pourakarmikas and asked the government to appoint officer Kumar Naik to oversee BBMP carrying out SOPs in containment zones.
The BBMP in response to the criticism, on Friday, issued a compensation of Rs 10 Lakhs to Shilpa's family condoling the unfortunate demise. BBMP Mayor Goutham Kumar issued the cheque to the family. Many said that action was needed apart from compensation to make sure this didn't repeat.
On Saturday morning, the mayor spoke the need for health and safety measures for PKs in the city.
"The health and safety of our Pourakarmikas remain our top priority. All mustering location supervisors are provided with thermal scanners to check the temperature of the Pourkarmikas before they start work. We have also been providing masks, gloves and sanitizers to our PKs."
The BBMP commissioner BH Anil Kumar also said that measures are being taken by BBMP to ensure the safety of PKs in the city.
As a continuing safety measure, BBMP has made arrangements to check the health of PKs using thermal scanners at all mustering points in the city & ensure they get sanitizers, gloves and safety kits.
While PPE kits which were part of the pourakarmikas' demand have not been issued to the workers, gloves, sanitizers and masks will be made available along with thermal scanners and temperature checks. Citizens are asking why this was not already made mandatory before and if already made mandatory why was it not implemented.