Bengaluru Buzz: Six COVID clusters in city| BWSSB helpline to stop manual scavenging | BMTC fare may rise… and more

Catch up on what happened in the city over the week in our roundup

Six COVID clusters

The number of COVID-19 clusters in the city rose from three to six after the detection of 19 cases — two of them in educational institutions — in Yelahanka on Friday. Agragami College, Sambhram Academy of Management Studies and Purva Venezia apartments are the three new clusters.

Earlier, the city’s third cluster was detected when 26 persons in SJR Watermark Apartment in Ambalipura, Bellandur ward, were found Covid positive. They are all asymptomatic and under home quarantine.

The UK, South Africa or Brazil variants of the coronavirus have not been found in the cluster at Manjushree Nursing College, according to NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and NeuroSciences). The nursing college was among the first two clusters discovered in the city.

On Thursday, four out of seven deaths in the state were reported from Bengaluru Urban. The BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) health officials have been directed to report new COVID-19 cases and clusters, apart from including the data in relevant epidemiological analyses within 24 hours.

The government has made 14-day home quarantine mandatory for all international returnees. Travellers are not allowed to board without a negative RT-PCR certificate at the point of origin, they will be tested again at the airport in Bengaluru. While returnees from UK, Brazil and South Africa and others transiting via Bengaluru cannot leave the airport until their RT-PCR test is negative, travellers from other countries can give their samples for RT-PCR test and exit. The costs will have to be borne by the travellers themselves.

Source: The Hindu, Deccan Herald, Indian Express

Vaccine for seniors, next

With two days to go for Phase 3 of the nationwide vaccination drive for senior citizens and those above 45 years with co-morbidities, the State government is yet to set guidelines.

Immunisation officials say they are waiting for the vaccination SOPs from the Centre. Drafting lists of people with co-morbidities have to start and nobody knows how many listed on the electoral rolls are senior citizens or aged above 45.

The BBMP is surveying 30,000 households to identify the intended recipients from March 1. However, the survey by ASHA workers has hit a snag due to network and internet issues.

Grouped into two-member teams, ASHA workers say they won’t be able to cover more than 20 houses a day. Many say they are spending between Rs 300 and Rs 600 out of their own pockets for mobile internet connections.

The BBMP is roping in citizen volunteers for its Covid vaccination survey. They can fill in Google doc forms to write their details and join ASHA workers.

Source: The Times of India, Deccan Herald, The New Indian Express

BWSSB helpline to regulate cleaners

The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewage board is working towards setting up a helpline in order to regulate agencies that offer desludging and cleaning services for sewage pits and drainage systems.

This comes a year after the Board decided to make it mandatory for citizens to hire service providers that it had certified. Many companies offer ‘mechanical cleaning’, but activists claim that agencies hire cheap labour.

The BWSSB called out to private service providers twice, to arrive at terms for certification and fix prices for services. There has been no response, however.

While activists peg the number at manual labourers at 25,000, a pilot survey of six districts, including Bengaluru, identified 1,720 manual scavengers. In Bengaluru, most of them are concentrated in the outer areas where sanitary infrastructure is absent, activists say.

Source: The Hindu

File pic: Informal sector workers in the city were most hit during the pandemic

Informal workers yet to recover

Informal sector workers, disrupted by the pandemic and lockdown, are yet to recover their losses. A study by Azim Premji University found that 15% of informal sector workers continue to be unemployed, 23% had experienced a break in employment, and nearly half of the people surveyed (46%) are in the same job but with less pay. Around 75% of the 250 surveyed were in jobs similar to what they did earlier, but most with lower pay or break in employment.

Researchers surveyed self-employed street vendors, waste pickers, autorickshaw drivers, mechanics, dhobis and small business owners, or those on wages rather than fixed salaries, such as domestic workers, sex workers and construction laborers.

Job losses were more severe among people of lower castes and worse for daily wage workers. More young people lost their jobs.

Source: The Hindu, The New Indian Express

BMTC fares may rise

Deputy Chief Minister and Transport Minister Laxman Savadi hinted at a ticket fare hike for Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation. As the pandemic and fuel price-rise have led to huge losses, BMTC has proposed a hike of 18-20%.

The commuter-led forum, BMTC Bus Prayanikara Vedike, has threatened to stage protests, claiming that buses are a public service and the BMTC should not be run like a private for-profit firm. Many labourers find BMTC buses unaffordable and use private transport or walk long distances, the forum points out.

Meanwhile, the Department of Personnel and Administrative Services has approved the purchage of new Innova cars for 32 ministers and 28 MPs at a cost of Rs 13.8 crore. The government increased to Rs 23 lakh, each minister/MP’s allowance for purchasing a car.

Source: Indian Express, The Hindu

Public consultation for PRR project

The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board has told the High Court that it will conduct a physical public hearing on the draft Environment Impact Assessment/Environment Management Plan for the eight-lane PRR (Peripheral Ring Road) project. The KSPCB had conducted a physical public hearing on the issue in August, in the middle of the pandemic. As many stakeholders did not attend the meeting, it conducted a virtual hearing in September. The petitioners, questioning the correctness of holding a virtual hearing, had sought a direction for a physical public hearing.

Source: The Hindu

Pourakarmikas protest

Pourakarmikas protested at the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike head office demanding increase in minimum wages, housing benefits and bringing drivers and cleaners/assistants of auto tippers and compactors under the direct payment system.

The workers said that those who are above 60 are given just one day’s notice and relieved from work. The demands are for at least three months’ notice, apart from pension benefits, increase in the minimum wages from ₹14,040 to ₹30,000. Many were given gunny bags instead of pushcarts, they noted.

Meanwhile, BBMP officials found discrepancies in the attendance of 41 pourakarmikas and suspended them. They had allegedly signed their attendance, but were later found driving autorickshaws 

Source: The Hindu, The New Indian Express

Thousands decry school fee drop

Thousands of teachers, non-teaching staff and private school management members marched from Krantiveera Sangolli Rayanna Bengaluru railway station to Freedom Park on Tuesday to protest the State government’s recent order that schools can charge only 70% of tuition fees this year.

The march was called by the Karnataka Private School Managements, Teaching and Non-Teaching Staff Coordination Committee (KPMTCC), a collective of 11 associations of teachers and school management members. Several MLCs also turned up for the march.

On the other hand, parents’ associations said that the pandemic had affected all sections. Full fees is unjustified as their children were not availing of all the facilities, they said.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister S Suresh Kumar promised to convene another round of meetings with parents and school managements to resolve the issue.

Source: The Hindu, Deccan Herald

Dissent over Hesarghatta grasslands

Several members of the State Wildlife Board decried the state government for shooting down a proposal to declare the Hessaraghatta grasslands as a conservation reserve in the last meeting of the board. At least three members wrote dissent notes to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF). Apart from online petitions, conservationists and citizens are planning to approach Forest Minister Aravind Limbavali.

The Hesaraghatta lake bed and grasslands, according to a survey by the Karnataka Biodiversity Board, is home to over 130 species of birds, many mammals, butterflies and millions of insects.

Source: The Hindu

[Compiled by Revathi Siva Kumar]

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