If there is one thing that has brought the world together amid COVID-19 pandemic, it is the hero-worship of our frontline corona warriors who have been risking their lives on duty but the sanitation workers of a Delhi university are deprived of this respect. As the India completes a month of lockdown and work from home, the frontline workers including doctors, sanitation workers, police etc are working overtime to ensure curbing of the spread of coronavirus. Also Read - Coronavirus: Cases in Pakistan Rise Above 69,470; Death Toll Nears 1,500-mark
However, the sanitation workers in the Jawaharlal Nehru University claim to have been cleaning the 18 hostels and messes on campus without masks or gloves and despite not getting their salary for nearly three months. Previously on the payroll of the administration itself, the sanitation workers started being handled by private contractors mainly, who in turn are paid by the administration. This change came after 2016 with the appointment of the new Vice-Chancellor Mamidala Jagdesh Kumar. Also Read - Bangladesh Reopens Offices, Transport Services Amid Spike in Coronavirus Cases
Working for a meagre monthly salary of Rs, 12,000, the sanitation workers have no money to buy masks or gloves nor have the luxury to work from home like the rest of India or leave. Allowing the administration to wash their hands of their welfare, their employment is contractualised by the private contractors. Also Read - Amid Sharp GDP Data Revision, Debate Continues Over Its Fairness
In an interview with News18, Anita, a sanitation worker in JNU as well as a mother of two, expressed, “We have been facing this issue for years. Though private contractors keep changing, the same sanitation workers continue to work for new contractors who offer us no transparency or aid. The VC as well as registrar must acknowledge us as permanent employees. We are providing essential services. The Prime Minister is calling people to clap for doctors. What about us? do our lives have no value?”
On the first day of the lockdown in India, on March 24, Anita could not make it to work after being stopped and harassed on the way by the police. As a result, her pay for the day was cut. As it is, Anita shared that she had not received her wages for two months.
Another sanitation worker, Kamlesh, who comes to work covering her face with a dupatta revealed, “We are completely dependent on the relief supplies and meals that Delhi government is arranging for the underprivileged.”
Currently, Apeksha Priyadarshini, a member of the student organization The Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students Organisation (BASO) and her team along with other students and teachers of JNU have donated, arranged and distributed COVID-19 kits where about 200 sanitation workers have already been provided with masks. These kits include a hand sanitiser, a face mask and a pair of gloves.
With 1,752 new cases in the last 24 hours, India on Friday witnessed biggest single-day spike in the number of coronavirus cases, following which the country’s tally surpassed 23,000-mark. A total of 37 casualties were reported in a day.
The total number of the containment zones in the national capital rose to 92. 138 new cases of COVID-19 and 3 deaths have been reported in Delhi on Friday, taking the total number of cases to 2514 & death toll to 53. Out of the total positive cases, 1604 are active. A total of 857 patients have been discharged till date, said Delhi Health Department.