Treated worse than bonded laborers: No country for Safai Karamcharis

Srinagar, Feb 19: It has been two months since Riyaz Ahmad, a sanitation worker at Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), has taken a day off. His work starts at the break of dawn when he holds long-handled broom to clean the streets.

 “I was directed to send my son, who is still studying, to work then I can take a day off to visit hospital. I was suffering from severe chest infection,” Ahmad said.

Another sanitation worker said he was instructed to take day off only if his wife would stand-in for him at his workplace. “We have to work in two shifts to clean Srinagar. If someone is sick, he cannot take a day off because there is dearth of sanitation workers in SMC,” he said.

The current manpower is not able to cater to whole Srinagar despite double shifts. Against the need of 7000 Safai Karamcharis, there are less than 3000 workers who have to cover 246 sq km area of Srinagar.

Chairman, Safai Karamchari Union, Ghulam Mohamad Solina said that they never stop cleaning city no matter what conditions they face.

“More than 40 years have passed since 1600 men were recruited as Safai Karamcharis’. At that time  city had 17 wards only. Around 1000 people have been taken as daily wagers in recent years. Now, Srinagar has extended to more than 35 wards but the manpower is same.   We need at least 7000 people to cover whole Srinagar,” he added. 

An official at SMC said Srinagar has expanded to 74 electoral wards, 35 administrative wards with population of more than 15 lakh and three lakh households.

The official noted that apart from human resource shortage, they don’t even have sanitation equipment and proper safety gear for Safai Karamcharis. “We only have 40% of transport available for carrying garbage,” he said.

Chief Sanitary Officer, SMC, Syed Nissar admitted that they need at least 6000 Safai Karamcharis to cover entire Srinagar.

“New rules have to be framed. According to 1970 rules only 500 budgetary posts are available. Recruitment of Safai Karamcharis is under consideration for which new rules are being framed,” he added.

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