Lockdown woes: Harsh work conditions for waste collectors

During lockdown, workers in Dry Waste Collection Centres (DWCCs) are dealing with hazardous waste, and are unable to segregate and transport waste on time.

RJ Usha from Radio Active 90.4 MHz speaks to Mohammed Imran, a worker from the Dry Waste Collection Centre (DWCC) at Ward No 123, on problems related to waste collection and segregation during lockdown.

It’s been over a month since the lockdown began, but Imran says that door-to-door waste collection has been going on as usual.

Several workers at Imran’s DWCC have been absent from work as they live in Bapuji Nagar ward which has been completely sealed off. Hence the collected waste is not being segregated on time. This, along with the difficulty in transporting waste from the DWCC, has led to accumulation of around 15 tonnes of waste in the centre, Imran says.

Another concern is that citizens use masks and gloves, but do not dispose of these properly. This poses a huge risk to waste collectors who come in direct contact with such waste. Hence masks and gloves should be disposed of as sanitary waste – wrapped in a newspaper with a red mark on it.

In Imran’s locality, the Indira Canteen offers breakfast until 9 am, but this clashes with the working hours of waste collectors. Breakfast and lunch is not readily available for these workers. Often, they have to go back home for their meals and report back to work.

Hasiru Dala,a social impact organisation working towards justice for waste pickers, has been a great source of support for the waste collectors. Immediately after the outbreak of COVID-19, Hasiru Dala trained them to use sanitisers and to work with extra caution.

They have also provided rice, oil, sugar and other essential ration items to the families of waste collectors. This has come as a blessing to these workers since the government has not fulfilled its promise of delivering essentials to their doorsteps. Hasiru Dala has also provided for diesel maintenance and medicines for the workers.

Imran believes that the lockdown brings with it a lot of problems, but that it is ultimately a right step by the government. Though waste collectors may face a lot of hardship, they will continue to serve the general public, Imran says.

Listen to the Radio Active COVID -19 Special – Mohammed Imran, a worker from the Dry Waste Collection Centre (DWCC) at Ward No 123, in conversation with RJ Usha from Radio Active

[Compiled by Deeksha Sudhindra]

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