Chennai corporation delivers food to sanitation workers in garbage van
From the first day of the COVID-19 outbreak in Chennai, sanitation workers are working round the clock to keep the city clean, despite the hardships they come across. But the Chennai Corporation has allegedly been treating them as third-class citizens. The recent incident of distributing them food in a garbage-collection vehicle has brought the issue to the fore.
The Chennai Corporation has 15 zones and Thiruvottiyur is one among them. It has 14 wards and the COVID relief measures are being taken up by sanitation workers and volunteers. The lunch is being prepared in a marriage hall located in Vanniyar street and parcels of the food is then distributed to them in a vehicle.
For the last few days, the Corporation has been using a garbage-collection vehicle for the purpose. Regional media reports allege neither cooks nor the people who distribute the food parcels do not wear masks. Higher officials are given food prepared at hotels, the reports allege.
Taking suo moto cognizance of these alleged discriminations, the State Human Rights Commission on July 30 served notice to Chennai Corporation, seeking an explanation.
But this not a one-off incident. Under the Chennai Corporation, a total of 22,430 sanitation workers are being employed. Out of which, only 6,401 are permanent employees. The remaining are temporary and contractual employees. They are given one mask every week and a set of cloth gloves every month. Besides unhygienic food, they are not given proper PPE kits even when they were deployed in COVID-affected areas.
However, the Corporation claimed that it had spent about ₹18 crore between March 24 and April 20. Out of which about ₹10.33 crore was spent only for the sanitary workers, it claimed.
P Srinivasan, the general secretary of Senkodi Federation of Conservancy Workers, alleged that though the grievances of sanitation workers had already been submitted in writing to the Corporation, it has taken no action to rectify it.
“The food is being prepared and distributed in four categories. The first goes to patients, the second to doctors, third to the officials and fourth to the sanitary workers. While the food supplies to the other three categories have good transportation, the food for sanitary workers are distributed through garbage-collection vehicles. We have already raised concerns over this discrimination but no action has been taken,” he said.
When the union took the issue to the notice of the zonal officer, the officer had passed the buck, alleged Srinivasan.
“The zonal officer is the head of a zone. But he passes the buck to the health department. The health officials then pass it to the revenue department. If the corporation arranges a minivan it could cost almost between ₹800 to ₹1,500 a day. But the corporation is not ready to spend even that,” said Srinivasan.
Speaking to The Federal, Paul Thangadurai, zonal officer said they had initiated actions against two persons.
“The food we give to the workers is tasty and is of good quality. We are providing food to more than 2,500 workers every day. There may be some lapses. We will take appropriate action to prevent such issues in future,” he said.