Ensure Dignity and Protection For Sanitation Workers On The Frontlines of COVID-19 In India
Thousands of sanitation workers across the country are risking their lives to keep our country clean and abate the risk of the virus. In return, the Government is paying little attention to their needs. From inadequate personal protection equipment (PPE) kits to unfair wages, decades of exploitation and discrimination faced by the workers may turn fatal during the pandemic.
We urge the Government of India to immediately take measures to secure the safety, health, livelihoods and dignity of sanitation workers and their families.
At the frontline of this fight against COVID-19 in India are thousands of essential workers. While it is important that health workers have the necessary protective equipment, most sanitation workers interviewed by Amnesty International India, who are also at risk of infection due to the nature of their work, feel that their safety and welfare is mostly an afterthought for all governments.
Sanitation workers at hospitals run the risk of infections from patients, while those collecting municipal solid waste are at risk from handling unmarked medical waste.
Workers are also expected to work for long hours on unfair wages, many are walking hours to their workplace due to the unavailability of transport during the lockdown. Some of them who were engaged in disinfectant spraying told us that they have developed skin rashes on their bodies due to lack of protective gear.
“Corona or no corona, if the Safai Kaamgaar (sanitation workers) stop work, dirt will pile up, people will contract infections, and many may even die. We are the invisible workforce that keeps your cities and hospitals clean. This work is nobody’s first choice. We are in this because of historical injustices, and we are stuck in this because we have no other means to feed our families.” – Dadarao Patekar, Sanitation Worker
This pandemic has exposed many fault lines in our societies. But it has also offered us a time to pause, reflect and make amends where necessary.
For long, we have ignored the degrading working conditions of India’s sanitation workers. This is the time to make amends that do not just last during the pandemic, but positively impact their lives after the pandemic.
Sign this petition if you agree that Safety and Dignity at the workplace is as much a right of the sanitation workers as it is of everyone else.
No One is Safe Till All Are Safe!
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