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We have problems of paan stains, overflowing sewage waste or garbage on pavements. In fact, the problems lie with the way we look at the job of cleaning. How many of us ever thought about the people who actually work to keep our cities/towns litter free?

There are countless conservancy workers in every city/town who see to it that the roads are swept clean when you step out to go to your workplace. Keeping the roads clean is not an enjoyable task. Especially for women workers, some of whom join this job just to support the family.

Sujata Bhetkar, 44 years, an MCGM employee said, “My husband died in 1996. With no source of income at home, I found raising five kids and looking after aged mother-in-law very difficult. So when I was offered a job by BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation in its conservancy department in my husband’s place, I agreed instantly. The initial five-six years were tough because I worked on daily wages. There were days with no work and no income.”

She added, “Over the last decade, the waste management in Mumbai has become difficult and complicated. We sweep the road in the morning but by afternoon, the area is not worth visiting again. People lack civic sense; they throw and spit at their will. I can understand, it is our duty to clean the city streets but it is everybody’s job to keep it clean. Since we are exposed to various kinds of hazardous wastes, the job poses serious health risks. Even though, it is my bread and butter, I would never wish to see my children in this job.”

Like Sujata, 46-year-old Manisha Jadhav (P North ward) got the job in BMC’s conservancy department after her husband died due to liver complications. She agreed with Sujata that the work in conservancy department was not only tough but also involved health risk and even accidents on site.

“One morning, while I was cleaning a highway road divider, I got hit by a three-wheeler from behind. After the accident, all I could remember was lying in a pool of blood. My left leg had fractured and required eight-nine stitches. That meant three months of complete bed rest. With the accident, I also lost my daily wages as a contract labourer for three months. I then realised the importance of a secure job.”

BMC says it has 27,660 staff in the conservancy department in labour category. Every month, BMC’s labour department conducts three-day training session at its RTC (Residential Training Center) in Borivali. The training session touches upon various issues like health and Municipal Service Rules. “We find the attitude of our staff after they attend the training sessions changes.” Every month around 60 people get trained and approximately 720-725 people are trained every year. Currently, BMC conducts one training session every month; they are now planning for two sessions every month.

Apart from training, BMC also provides protection/safety gears to its conservancy staff like gloves, mask and safety jackets with reflectors, gumboots and raincoats (during monsoon and safety shoes). Other facilities include compensation of र1 lakh for the family members of the staff who dies during service. And in certain cases, the job is also offered to the family members.

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