Once again, the plight of Covid-19 front line warriors came to the limelight when workers of Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) wrote a petition to Bombay High Court. The petition filed by Samaj Samata Kamgaar Sangh, a union representing the 6277 workers of NMMC, alleged that despite the workers discharging essential services and have been regularly reporting to work at their respective stations, they are not provided with any protection from Covid-19 virus such as hand sanitizers, hand gloves, face masks, PPEs etc. save and except providing low-quality face masks and hand gloves on one occasion. The said workers are therefore highly exposed to catching the deadly Covid-19 virus, thereby putting in jeopardy their own lives as well as the lives of their family members.
Justice S.J.Kathawalla hearing the plight of 6277 workers out of which 3261 workers are involved in Solid Waste Management including day-to-day road cleaning and transportation of garbage, involved in waste management, 693 workers are employed in the health department, which includes duties at four Corporation hospitals and 23 Urban Health Posts across Navi Mumbai health care and about 65 workers are employed on cemetery cleaning duty , directed the NMMC to submit before the Bombay High Court an affidavit with the details of the number of face mask, hand sanitizers and hand gloves that were in possession of the corporation and were purchased hereafter and also the details of the distribution of all such protective equipment. The court also sought to know the details of the individuals of firms from whom the essentials were purchased along with the price.
Advocate Bhavesh Parmer, representing the workers, mentioned to the court that the petitioner union had written several letters to the Municipal Commissioner of the Corporation and the Deputy Commissioner, Solid Waste Management to which they have received no response from the authorities even though Deputy Commissioner, Solid Waste Management visited some of the Hazari Shades and noted that the problems of the workers were real and grave and needed to be addressed at the earliest. Parmar also mentioned to the court that the lackadaisical approach of the Corporation has led to few positive cases among the workers of the Petitioner union while 24 persons are placed under home quarantine.
Additionally, it was also brought to the attention of the court that the workers were facing problems in travelling to their work stations and arranging food – as all the eateries and hotels are under the shutdown. The Corporation had sanctioned Rs 300/- as daily allowance to all the workers and employees; however, since the workers are on a contractual basis, the amount is not yet paid to the 6277 workers.
Finally, the Hon’ble Court directed the Corporation to submit the findings of the Deputy Commissioner, Solid Waste Management visit to the Hazari shades. The further hearing will take place on 14th May.
Order: B HC O12.05.2020