The Bombay High Court has directed the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation to file an affidavit listing details of all the protective gear procured and distributed to its staff in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Justice S J Kathawalla passed the order on Tuesday on a petition filed by sanitation and health workers of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC), pointing out how thousands of them have been working each day in the lockdown without any protective gear.
The court directed the civic body to file an affidavit listing the number of masks, gloves, hand sanitisers it had in its possession before the lockdown, and the number of such equipment it procured after the lockdown.
Justice Kathawalla also directed NMMC to inform the court about details of such protective gear distributed among the civic staff since the lockdown.
The petitioner, Samaj Samata Kamgar Sangh, a trade union representing nearly 4,000 contract workers, who are employed for the work of sanitation, solid waste management and in the health department, filed the plea in the high court earlier this month.
It said since the workers are all essential service providers, they have been working during the lockdown, putting their own health at risk.
The plea said the workers are cleaning roads and public areas, going door-to-door collecting garbage, and cleaning garbage, medical waste and sewage without adequate protective equipment.
As per the plea, while the corporation gives a daily allowance of Rs 300 to its permanent sanitation employees for transport, food, hand wash and other facilities, the contract employees do not get any such allowance.
It said that cleaning stations, where each employee is supposed to wash up before beginning work, has just a few drops of sanitisers for each contractual employee.
Most employees, even those working at hospitals and health centres, are working without masks, and the sanitation workers collect garbage and medical waste without gloves.
The petitioners also told HC that they wrote several times to the civic authorities highlighting their plight, but are yet to receive any response.
After hearing the plea, Justice Kathawalla said, It is submitted that the deputy commissioner, solid waste management visited some of the hazeri shades (hand wash centres) and noted that the problems of workers were real and grave and need to be addressed at the earliest. However, thereafter no action was taken by respondent No. 1 (corporation).”
“In the circumstances, the respondent No. 1 is directed to file its affidavit setting out the number of face masks, hand gloves, hand sanitisers which were in their possession prior to the announcement of the lockdown, the subsequent additions thereto, along with detailed break up of the distribution carried out from time to time till date, he said.
The court also directed the civic body to disclose the names and addresses of firms from which it got all the protective equipment, and to disclose how often were the masks, gloves provided to its workers were replaced or replenished.
The corporation has been asked to file its reply by May 14.