Tag: COVID19

Mumbai ‘safai karamcharis’ fighting COVID19 – Essential services, expendable lives

That’s the story of Mumbai’s safai karamcharis on the frontlines of the battle against Covid-19. Wages delayed, and with little protective gear, they’re still clearing garbage even in the toxic air of the Mahul area



For Anita Ghotale, Saturday, March 21 was a usual day at work – though many shops in the city were shut, the markets deserted, the streets quiet. With the lockdown measures put in place by the government due to the spread of Covid-19, many were staying shut in at home in Mumbai that day.

But Anita was cleaning those quiet streets, sweeping away sludge-like garbage from accumulated dark and dirty water. Some of the filthy water splashed onto her legs. “For us, every day is risky. Not only now because of this corona, but [it’s been like this for us] from many generations,” she said.

It was around 9 a.m., and she had been at work for two hours, sweeping the streets and pavements in M-West ward in Mahul village of Chembur in eastern Mumbai.

What about her own health in this grim situation? “We got these masks only yesterday [on March 20], that too when we demanded them due to the virus,” she said. A mask was tucked into the waist of her saree, and 35-year-old Anita was wearing a scarf around her neck for protection. “These masks are thin and not reusable [after two days of wear],” she said. No signs of gloves, and protective footwear like sturdy boots is unheard of in her line of work.

Anita belongs to the Matang community – listed as a Scheduled Caste in Maharashtra – and says her family has been engaged in sanitation work for generations. “My grandfather used to carry human shit on his head from open gutters [in Mumbai],” she says. “Be it any generation or year, our people have always had to fight for their rights as human beings.”

To make matters worse, Mahul, the area where Anita lives and works, has for some years now been in the news for its high levels of air toxicity due to the nearby chemical industries and refineries.


Anita and her family were shifted here in 2017 from Vikhroli East in north-eastern Mumbai, as part of a Slum Rehabilitation Authority project. They live in a one room-kitchen tenement in Subhash Nagar. Their cluster of 6 to 7 storey buildings is barely 15 metres across the road from the BPCL (Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited) refinery.

Over the last decade, 72 buildings comprising 17,205 tenements for over 60,000 people came up here as colonies of ‘project affected persons’. People were re-settled here after being displaced by various projects in the city. Due to their proximity and constant exposure to heavily polluting industries, residents here have reported high levels of ailments such as breathing difficulties, lung-related issues, coughs, eye and skin irritation.

After prolonged protests and petitions in the courts, in September 2019, the Bombay High Court ordered the municipal corporation to pay Rs 15,000 rent as transit rent to the families until alternative rehabilitation is made available. But, says Anita, “The BMC has done nothing in the last four months. My six-year-old son Sahil often falls sick and has breathing problems due to this dirty air and smell of chemicals. I don’t know what we will do if the virus arrives here.”

Anita earns Rs. 200 as daily wages; as a contract worker, she is not paid on the days she cannot work. And she hasn’t received her wages for three months. The contractors, she says, often don’t pay on time, saying the money is held up at the Solid Waste Management Department of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai – Anita’s employer for the last 15 years.

Her two daughters and two sons study in a municipal school in Mahul. Her husband, Naresh, 42, sells garlic door-to-door in the colonies of Chembur – and barters it for discarded plastic items that he then sells to a scrap dealer. Her mother-in-law segregates plastic from piles of garbage in Chembur, which she too sells to scrap dealers.

“The three of us together earn not more than 5,000-6,000 rupees every month,” Anita says. With this amount, the seven-member family manages their monthly ration, electricity bill, other expenses – and various illnesses and healthcare.

But with Anita’s delayed wages, it gets even harder to stretch the family budget every month. “The government is asking employers to pay advance wages to labourers,” she says. “But, what about our dues pending for months?”

Around half a kilometre from where Anita is working, at a garbage collection point in the same ward, Katin Ganjey is standing amid a pile of garbage, wearing only chappals. Like Anita, he too is a contract labourer hired by the municipal corporation’s Solid Waste Management Department. The city corporation hires 6,500 workers on contract, says Jaywant Pradkar, the chief supervisor of that department.

The garbage that Katin is picking includes broken pieces of glass, rusty nails, used sanitary napkins, and rotting food. He gathers these and other hazardous waste items together with a digging fork at the end of a bamboo stick, and heaps them on a plastic mat. Then he and another worker – there are five men in the team – lift the mat and throw all the waste into a garbage truck.

“We got these [rubber] gloves only yesterday [March 20],” says 28-year-old Katin, who also belongs to the Matang community. Usually, he handles the garbage with his bare hands. “These are new gloves, but see – this one has torn. How do we keep our hands safe in this kind of garbage with such gloves? And now there is this virus. Are we not human?”

It is 9.30 in the morning, and his task is to clean 20 garbage points till 2 p.m. in various parts of Mahul. “Risking our life is not new for us. But at least because of this virus you [the municipal corporation and the government] should think about us,” he says. “We are here in this garbage for the public, but will people think about us?”

For his job with innumerable risks, Katin earns Rs. 250 a day. His wife, Surekha, 25, is a domestic worker.

The corona virus is new to the city, but not his and other sanitation workers’ repeated demands for a secure and permanent job, health insurance, and a regular supply of safety equipment like face mask, gloves and shoes.

The need for protection is now even more urgent. On March 18, a letter sent to the municipal commissioner by Kachara Vahtuk Shramik Sangh – a Mumbai-based organisation that works for the rights of safai karamacharis (sanitation workers) – demanded adequate safety equipment for workers on the ground. On March 20, a few workers were given a mask each.

“Due to the virus, we requested that the BMC authorities give us soap and sanitiser for the workers on the garbage trucks, but we got nothing,” says Dadarao Patekar, 45, who works on trucks in M-West ward, and is a Nav Bauddha (Neo Buddhist)). “Workers who are cleaning the dirt of others should get regular health check-ups. They are at a higher risk of infection by the virus.”

However, Pradkar, the chief supervisor, says, “We have given good quality masks, gloves and sanitisers to all our workers. And are ensuring their safety seeing the growth of the virus.”

The numerous shutdown measures announced on March 20 by Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were further extended on March 22 to a near-total lockdown, except for essential services. At the time of reporting for this story, on March 21, safai karamcharis, both permanent and on contract, continued to gather at 6:30 a.m. at the chowkies in the city’s wards, where their attendance for the day is registered and they are assigned cleaning spots.

“Our work is part of essential services. We have to come out. Like soldiers on the border who are protecting us, we safai karamcharis have to protect our citizens,” says Patekar.

But how will the sanitation workers protect themselves? “The government is saying clean hands constantly. How do we do that? The water comes here every two days. And who can afford that liquid [hand sanitiser]? We have to share a public toilet with hundreds of people,” says 38-year-old Archana Chabuskwar, who is also from the Nav Bauddha community. She collects garbage every day from more than 40 households in the Subhash Nagar locality, and earns Rs. 200 as daily wages.

Her 100 square-foot home is in a narrow alley in Anand Nagar in Chembur, around four kilometres from Mahul’s Subhah Nagar. The slum colony is home to several families of safai karamcharis, many of whom came here from Jalna, Satara and Solapur during the 1972 drought. Some years ago, Archana’s husband Rajendra broke his leg when it got crushed under a heavy metal garbage bin that he and other workers were trying to pick up. He died in 2017 due to a lung ailment.

“Our people die all the time anyway, but no one asks about us,” says Archana. “What difference does it make if we now die of the virus?”

Source: PARI (ruralindiaonline.org) Under Creative Commons Licence.

- Headline changed. Original headline- Essential services, expendable lives

Pass the message: 5 steps to kick out COVID19

WHO, FIFA launch joint campaign to equip football community to tackle COVID-19

Geneva, 23 March 2020: FIFA, the international governing body of football, and the World Health Organization (WHO) have teamed up to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) by launching a new awareness campaign led by world-renowned footballers, who are calling on all people around the world to follow five key steps to stop the spread of the disease.

The “Pass the message to kick out coronavirus” campaign promotes five key steps for people to follow to protect their health in line with WHO guidance, focused on handwashing, coughing etiquette, not touching your face, physical distance and staying home if feeling unwell.

“FIFA and its President Gianni Infantino have been actively involved in passing the message against this pandemic since the very beginning,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the virtual launch of the campaign at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. “Be it through campaigns or funding, FIFA has stood up to the coronavirus, and I am delighted that world football is supporting WHO to kick out the coronavirus. I have no doubt with this type of support that together we will win.”

“We need teamwork to combat the coronavirus,” said FIFA President Gianni Infantino. “FIFA has teamed up with WHO because health comes first. I call upon the football community worldwide to join us in supporting this campaign to pass the message even further. Some of the greatest players to have played the beautiful game have put their names to the campaign and are united in their desire to pass the message to kick out COVID-19.”

Twenty-eight players are involved in the video campaign, which is being published in 13 languages.

Sami Al Jaber (KSA), Alisson Becker (BRA), Emre Belözoğlu (TUR), Jared Borgetti (MEX), Gianluigi Buffon (ITA), Iker Casillas (ESP), Sunil Chhetri (IND), Youri Djorkaeff (FRA), Han Duan (CHN), Samuel Eto’o (CMR), Radamel Falcao (COL), Laura Georges (FRA), Valeri Karpin (RUS), Miroslav Klose (GER), Philipp Lahm (GER), Gary Lineker (ENG), Carli Lloyd (USA), Lionel Messi (ARG), Mido (EGY), Michael Owen (ENG), Park Ji-sung (KOR) , Carles Puyol (ESP), Célia Šašić (GER), Asako Takakura (JPN), Yaya Touré (CIV), Juan Sebastián Verón (ARG), Sun Wen (CHN) and Xavi Hernández (ESP).

A video campaign, which will be published on player and FIFA digital channels, is also being provided as individual localized files to the 211 FIFA member associations and media agencies, together with a graphics toolkit for implementation on social media to further pass the message.


“It starts with your hands,” says Alisson Becker, WHO Goodwill ambassador for health promotion, Liverpool FC and Brazil goalkeeper, and The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper, 2019. “Please wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based solution.”

Such frequent washing with soap and water, or preferably with an alcohol-based hand solution, kills viruses that may be on your hands. It is simple, but it is very important.



“Cover your nose and mouth with a bent elbow or tissue when you sneeze or cough,” says Carli Lloyd two-time FIFA Women’s World Cup winner from the United States. “Dispose of tissue immediately and wash your hands.”

Droplets spread the coronavirus. By following respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from contracting viruses, such as cold, flu and coronavirus.


“Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose or mouth to prevent the virus from entering your body,” adds FC Barcelona and Argentina forward Lionel Messi, The Best FIFA Men’s Player in 2019, and a multiple FIFA Ballon d’Or winner.

Hands touch too many surfaces and can quickly pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your face, from where the virus can move inside your body, making you feel unwell.fifa-who-step-4

“In terms of social interaction, take a step back,” says Han Duan, who represented China PR 188 times in an international career that spanned 11 years. “Stay at least one metre distance from others.”

By maintaining such social distancing, you are helping to avoid breathing in any droplets from someone who sneezes or coughs in close proximity.fifa-who-step-5

Feel – know your symptoms:
“If you feel unwell, stay home,” concludes Samuel Eto’o, former FC Barcelona and Cameroon striker, who represented his country 114 times. “Please follow all instructions provided by your local health authorities.”

If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance.

Keep informed as local health authorities provide the latest information on the situation in your area. Please follow their specific instructions, and call in advance to allow them to direct you to the appropriate local health facility. This serves to protect you and to help prevent the spread of virus and other infections.

FIFA have also pledged $10 million to support the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO.

For more information, please consult @WHO and follow the latest information online.

Source: WHO site.

COVID19 Advisory for Indian overseas students & nationals in Australia


COVID19 Advisory for Indian Nationals in Australia
(Received in the SAT What’s App account from the Indian Consulate, Melbourne)

1) Considering the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Australia, all Indian nationals, especially students are advised to take abundant precautions with regard to their health & hygiene and follow the advisories issued by the local authorities. Australian Department of Health updates on COVID19 can be checked at https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert

2) While most of the Australian educational institutions are presently open, the fast-evolving situation could also lead to stronger and urgent measures including shut down of on-campus operations. If you are staying in on-campus housing and are asked to vacate, check with your university if you can continue staying in on-campus housing. If not possible, consult with your university or your student network on how to find alternate options for accommodation. Likewise, check how to avail your health services, health insurance, and any other essential services that may be impacted.

3)Australia has announced that all arrivals in the country from midnight today must “self-isolate” for 14 days on arrival. Currently, Australia also has issued travel restrictions for a number of countries and further restrictions can be expected in the days ahead. Any overseas travel may also compromise your ability to return to Australia. It is strongly advised to avoid all non-essential domestic or international travel.

4)It should be kept in mind by those Indian nationals traveling to India that they will also be subject to medical screening upon arrival in India and maybe put in quarantine for a minimum of 14 days if required. For full details on the current restrictions in India, please check updated travel advisories on https://boi.gov.in/content/advisory-travel-and-visa-restrictions-related-covid-19-0

5)This is an unprecedented situation, but we can successfully manage it by taking decisions with a calm mind. Please take prudent health precautions and carefully review information and travel advisories.

For updates visit our website-www.hcicanberra.gov.in
Updates also available on Facebook- IndianHighCommissionCanberraAustralia
On Twitter- @HciCanberra Facebook