Blog: Safety of sanitation workers should not be overlooked (India)

602 views

  • paresh
  • paresh's Avatar
    Topic Author
  • Budding WASH researcher, especially interested in governance, public policy, finance, politics and social justice. Architect, Urban & Regional planner by training, Ex. C-WAS, India. I am a patient person :)
  • Posts: 74
  • Karma: 4
  • Likes received: 34

Blog: Safety of sanitation workers should not be overlooked (India)

As we all understand, besides health care workers, though not in as much limelight and discussion, sanitation workers are at the forefront of fighting this pandemic. This recent piece by Abhinav Akhilesh, Meera Mehta and Zara Juneja suggests  ways of supporting sanitation workers through this difficult time 
1. Provide PPE 
2. Provide financial support 
3. Local support - reducing workload, monitoring, etc.
4. Provide access to food and boarding facilities. 

Some of these, especially provision of PPE should be given at any time, but in developing countries it may take a pandemic to make it a reality.  While 4 is Pandemic specific as going back to families would risk them as well. This also needs to be seen in light of stories of health care workers being asked to vacate rental apartments. 

After Meera Mehta shared this piece on twitter, there was an interesting conversation that followed. 

In light of this piece and the conversation on twitter, some questions of interest are:  
 - Are there other ways of supporting sanitation workers?
 - How are sanitation workers in your city/province/country  being supported?
 - If services are provided by private players, do contractual arrangements obligate contractors to continue to provide service and support  workers or can they refuse?

The third is particularly important in my opinion as this risk had not been considered earlier. The Disaster Management Act in India for example doesn't deal with such a scenario.

Please feel free to add questions if you feel the need

Regards
paresh
Paresh Chhajed-Picha
Researcher at Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, India
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @Sparsh85
Wikipedia: Sparsh85

Co-moderator of this discussion forum
(Under internship contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)
The following user(s) like this post: PrinceK
You need to login to reply
  • paresh
  • paresh's Avatar
    Topic Author
  • Budding WASH researcher, especially interested in governance, public policy, finance, politics and social justice. Architect, Urban & Regional planner by training, Ex. C-WAS, India. I am a patient person :)
  • Posts: 74
  • Karma: 4
  • Likes received: 34

Re: Blog: Safety of sanitation workers should not be overlooked (India)

Dear all, 
Sharing an open letter (see here ) written by a group of concerned citizens in India to ministers and the public to improve status of sanitation workers. The demands are:
  1. Sanitary workers should be classified as health workers, along with doctors and nurses. This will, first and foremost, protect their dignity.
  2. (a) All sanitary work should be mechanised.
    (b) No sanitary work will be contract labour.
    (c) A minimum wage, of at least Rs 20,000, should be implemented. (In a metropolitan centre like Chennai, Rs. 20,000 for a household of 4 would be just about stringently adequate to secure some minimum necessities of life.)
    (d) There must be comprehensive health insurance for sanitary workers and their families.
    (e) They will be eligible for all allowances that are covered under the description of ‘hazardous work’.
    (f) All sanitary workers will be eligible for pension benefits.
  3. Sanitary workers must be provided accommodation, just as the police are, for they both work at keeping citizens safe. Many work at night, so they should be provided safe transport to the site 1 of work.
  4. In time, sanitary workers shall come to play a supervisory role. All citizens will participate in keeping public spaces clean, they will separate their garbage, they will compost their bio-degradable waste locally. Sanitary workers will help citizens establish gardens, and help them grow fruits and vegetables with their compost.
  5. Children of sanitary workers must get preferential admission to Kendriya Vidyalaya, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, and Sainik Schools.
The letter explains the reasons for these demands and stresses that this is an opportune time improve conditions of sanitation workers.

Regards
paresh
Paresh Chhajed-Picha
Researcher at Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, India
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @Sparsh85
Wikipedia: Sparsh85

Co-moderator of this discussion forum
(Under internship contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)
The following user(s) like this post: arpit0393
You need to login to reply
  • ElaineMercer
  • ElaineMercer's Avatar
  • Communications and Networking Officer for the Sanitation Learning Hub, Institute of Development Studies, in the UK.
  • Posts: 19
  • Likes received: 10

Re: Blog: Safety of sanitation workers should not be overlooked (India)

Before COVID 19 - Sanitation Workers faced the choice of working under extremely dangerous conditions or earning nothing.

Now they are even more vulnerable.

Today on World Day for Safety and Health at Work, we can’t overlook them.

Read the blog by Ruhil Iyer from the Sanitation Learning Hub (via Institute of Development Studies)

With powerful photos from CS Sharada Prasad
You need to login to reply
  • Elisabeth
  • Elisabeth's Avatar
  • I'm passionate about SuSanA's role in the WASH sector since about 2005. I'm a freelance consultant since 2012 (former roles: program manager, lecturer, process engineer for wastewater treatment plants)
  • Posts: 3026
  • Karma: 54
  • Likes received: 826

Re: Blog: Safety of sanitation workers should not be overlooked (India)

Hi Paresh,

I read that open letter by a group of concerned citizens in India to ministers and the public that you posted on 22 April. I would like to know what you think of the demands/suggestions in their letter. Are they really realistic? 

A statement like this "All sanitary work should be mechanised." to me is potentially unrealistic or even harmful. Firstly, "sanitary work" can be a range of things - from "private sanitation" to "public sanitation". 

See here on Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitation#Definitions

Sanitation can include personal sanitation and public hygiene. Personal sanitation work can include handling  menstrual waste , cleaning household  toilets , and managing household  garbage . Public sanitation work can involve garbage collection, transfer and treatment ( municipal solid waste management ), cleaning drains, streets, schools, trains,  public spaces , community toilets and  public toilets sewers , operating  sewage treatment plants , etc. [11] :4 Workers who provide these services for other people are called  sanitation workers .

How could cleaning of toilets ever be fully mechanised and would we really want/need this?
Also the emptying of the faecal vaults of UDDTs (urine diversion dehydration toilets) is best done manually (with protective equipment) not with fancy machinery just for the sake of mechanising everything.

Also this one is interesting but is it realistic?:

In time, sanitary workers shall come to play a supervisory role. All citizens will participate in keeping public spaces clean, they will separate their garbage, they will compost their bio-degradable waste locally. Sanitary workers will help citizens establish gardens, and help them grow fruits and vegetables with their compost.

I don't think it should be our aim to have all households have little composters in their houses/apartments. This only works for people who have gardens. For inner-city living it makes more sense to have a central system of collection of kitchen waste and transport to larger composting plants.

Again, perhaps they should clarify in their letter how they define "sanitary workers"? Just to be sure we are all on the same page.

What is your view and other peoples' view on this?

The other demands in the letter are probably reasonable. I guess it would help if the workers could have unions that are able to negotiate on their behalf. Do such unions exist yet?

Regards,
Elisabeth
Head moderator of this Discussion Forum
(under consultancy contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twitter: @EvMuench
Founder of WikiProject Sanitation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
My Wikipedia user profile: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:EMsmile
You need to login to reply
  • paresh
  • paresh's Avatar
    Topic Author
  • Budding WASH researcher, especially interested in governance, public policy, finance, politics and social justice. Architect, Urban & Regional planner by training, Ex. C-WAS, India. I am a patient person :)
  • Posts: 74
  • Karma: 4
  • Likes received: 34

Re: Blog: Safety of sanitation workers should not be overlooked (India)

I agree that a broad spectrum of activities  can be referred to as sanitation work and not all of it can be mechanised. Probably, the point they are trying to make is that any activity that currently brings a worker in contact with human waste like emptying septic tanks, cleaning sewers be mechanised. 
I also assume that the nature of the article ( an open letter) needed it to be short and culling on the details you mentioned. I recognise a few names from the list, 'sanitation ' is not the core area of work for many of them and they would probably agree with regards to mechanisation, etc. The core issue here is the rights of sanitation workers

I don't think it should be our aim to have all households have little composters in their houses/apartments. This only works for people who have gardens. For inner-city living it makes more sense to have a central system of collection of kitchen waste and transport to larger composting plants.

I beg to differ here.  As I understand, it is best if organic waste can be managed as near to the source as possible. And if not all houses can have a composter, they could carry it to  a community level composter installed in the community garden. Only if this is not possible should organic waste be collected to and treated at a large treatment unit. The inorganic waste can be collected periodically or the market can take care of it. Alleppey, a town in Kerala (population ~180,000) , India has initiated this system with a tag line 'my waste, my responsibility' and the initial results are encouraging. 

The reason being that local governments of small and medium towns  in developing countries have limited financial resources to sustain large facilities and centralised systems and the willingness to pay is also not very high. We've experienced them becoming dysfunctional in a few years time. I understand that such a system may not be suitable for large cities, but they are few, have resources and higher governments are also willing to pump-in money.  

(I must confess that this opinion is highly influenced by  the scale and densities of cities in India.) 

Regards
paresh
Paresh Chhajed-Picha
Researcher at Indian Institute of Technology - Bombay, India
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Twitter: @Sparsh85
Wikipedia: Sparsh85

Co-moderator of this discussion forum
(Under internship contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)
You need to login to reply
  • Elisabeth
  • Elisabeth's Avatar
  • I'm passionate about SuSanA's role in the WASH sector since about 2005. I'm a freelance consultant since 2012 (former roles: program manager, lecturer, process engineer for wastewater treatment plants)
  • Posts: 3026
  • Karma: 54
  • Likes received: 826

Re: Blog: Safety of sanitation workers should not be overlooked (India)

Interesting... please help me understand how this works in some Indian cities. You wrote:

And if not all houses can have a composter, they could carry it to  a community level composter installed in the community garden.

How do I have to imagine such a community garden? Is that a common thing? Amongst a grouping of multi-storey apartment buildings there are community gardens, or are you referring more to areas with one-household dwellings?

How far do you think it could be expected for people to walk with their organic kitchen waste to a communal facility? I can't imagine that people would be willing to walk further than their drive way... That's how the system worked in Germany where I lived: we had a brown bin for kitchen and garden waste which was collected by the municipality (or their contracted service providers) once per week, and taken to a composting facility operated by a company for the municipality.

Regards,
Elisabeth
Head moderator of this Discussion Forum
(under consultancy contract with Skat Foundation funded by WSSCC)

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twitter: @EvMuench
Founder of WikiProject Sanitation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
My Wikipedia user profile: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:EMsmile
You need to login to reply
Recently active users. Who else has been active?
Time to create page: 0.313 seconds