New Delhi: A judicial bench including Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyothi Singh, on Wednesday, sought response from the Centre and AAP government on a Public Interest Litigation seeking payment of pending salaries to sanitation workers. The Court also enquired about providing medical facilities and safety gear to sanitation workers during work as demanded by the petition.
The bench issued notices to National and Delhi Commissions for Safai Karamcharis seeking their stand by March 15th. The petition was filed by Delhi resident Harnam Singh, a social activist and the former Chairman of Delhi Commission for Safai Karamcharis. In the petition, he alleges that sanitation workers were forced to work without adequate protective gear during the pandemic. Advocate Mehmood Pracha represents Harnam Singh in Court.
"The two commissions set up for the welfare of Safai Karamcharis did not perform their duties," the petition alleges. It further states that the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, which was set up in 1993 for safeguarding the rights and interests of sanitation workers, has not performed its statutory function in this crucial period.
"No facilities for treatment and care as well as medical insurance of these sanitation workers and their families have been made available by the respondents (Centre, Delhi government and the commissions)," the petition slammed.
"Owing to the said situation, North Delhi Municipal Corporation workers have been on strike since early January 2021, while the East Delhi Municipal Corporation workers have also announced a strike recently. It has serious implications for sanitation, cleanliness, and safety of the general public as sanitation workers have been compelled to take drastic steps," it added.
In response to this, Additional Standing Counsel Satyakam, who represented Delhi Government told the bench, "The sanitation workers were the employees of the three corporations responsible for providing them with protective gear and medical facilities".
Speaking with Madhyamam, Advocate Mehmood Pracha said, "Sanitation workers have to feed their family, so they are forced to work most of the time. They are bonded labourers; they are compelled to work on below minimum wages. We are expecting positive action in this petition. Till now the government has not responded to the complaint. In reality, Swachh Bharath Mission is getting so much of funds, but Safai Karamcharis are not getting anything beneficial out of that."
Justice Singh also wrote to the administration of all states and UTs, seeking a response on the status of procurement and disbursement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits and other safety equipment to sanitation workers.