Project on health impairments of conservancy workers of Central and South Howrah
We are environment and social activists since 1977. During the past 30 years almost all the major environmental issues concerning the twin cities of Calcutta – Howrah and of the State of West Bengal have been attended by us in different ways. From 1977 to 1995 we have agitated before the Peoples’ Forum and afterwards we have been ventilating the grievances of the masses before the Judicial Forum. On the basis of our petition filed before the Supreme Court, the first Green Bench of the country has been set up in the High Court of Calcutta in the year 1996. Our short tenure of activism has achieved a long list of issues covered by us, the details of which are available in our Website (renucalenv.com). In fact we are second to none in so far as reacting to the environment related issues and social aspects of our state.
We have been fighting for the poor and downtrodden section of the society from the very beginning of our activism. Through ventilating the grievances of the people we have created pressures on different authorities of the state of West Bengal and in the process the distinction as social pressure group have been attributed to us. Through placing the plights of the people before the judicial forum we have attempted and also achieved some success in mitigating few deep rooted problems concerning them. Now it has been desired by us that instead of simply being protestant with the problems of the people and ventilating their grievances, we should take up some positive program and extend direct support to the destitute section of the society.
The health hazards and the high risk faced by conservancy workers
Our organization has extensively worked in the field of solid waste management of the city of Calcutta and Howrah since 1994. More than hundred visits to the trenching grounds of both the cities have shown us the occupational risks and health hazards being faced by the sweepers, waste collectors, rag pickers and other conservancy workers. It is really a matter of great shame to our civilized society where the people who make and keep us clean are forced to remain unclean and suffer. The respiratory problems, pneumonitis, viral/bacterial/fungal infections, skin/eye/gastrointestinal problems and overall poor health condition are the major sufferings of this very poor strata of our society.
Our programme on this issue
It is an admitted position that the hazards being faced by the cleaners of the society are unavoidable to some extent but certain small steps, if taken, can minimize their hardships. Unfortunately, Local-Self Government Department, Civic Authorities and the activists like us have not paid adequate attention to the problems of the poor. We can easily file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) on this issue and obtain a strong direction from the Hon’ble Court. But instead of protesting and demanding the relief measures, it has now been decided by our members that we should take up program and extend the support directly to this deserving section of the society.
To carry out health check-up of the conservancy staff once a year, which will include lung function test, chest ex-ray, lung pathology and measuring blood pressure.
To provide them the immunization facilities either through inoculation or vaccination (for Hepatitis B, Cholera etc.).
To provide them with equipments like ankle high shoes, gloves, washable apron (provisional) and mask (provisional).
During the course of health check-up if any staff is found suffering from other problematic diseases, arrangements will be made to admit them to the appropriate medical centre for appropriate treatment.
On the subject of child labour, we shall take up the issue with the appropriate authority.
Area of operation
We shall cover the Howrah Municipal Corporation area, which is inhabited by more than 1.3 millions of people and where there is no health protection of the conservancy workers. The scavenging practice followed by the corporation is to lift and dump the solid wastes through the outside contractors. The contractors deploy daily labourers for this purpose and no health care measure is taken for them. Deployment of adolescent and woman workers is not very uncommon here. Some photographs have been taken by us, which show that the conservancy staffs are directly exposed to hazards. Few photographs are enclosed herewith.
We are at present interacting with the Howrah Municipal Corporation’s officials and the labour contractors and through discussions with them it has been surfaced that the total number of scavengers will be around 1000. The central and south part of the city is now found more problematic in respect of solid wastes. The problem is/was so acute that we had to file Public Interest Litigation before the Supreme Court of India and High Court at Calcutta. We therefore, purpose to attend the conservancy staff of these two parts of the city where about 500 poor scavengers are to be covered. Subsequently we shall cover the rag pickers of the Belgachia trenching ground and the conservancy workers of northern and western part of the city.
Cost of the current proposed programme for 500 workers
|Lung function test, chest x-ray and lung pathology (Rs. 900 each X 500)
|Immunization against Hepatitis Bb Cholera and other diseases (Rs. 250 each X 500)
|Cost of ankle high shoe and gloves (Rs. 500 each X 500)
|Cost of infrastructures support like office cost, travelling, transportation of conservancy stuff, telephone, medical attendants, nursing, temporary structures and other related organisational cost.
Time frame of the programme and technical support
We are scheduling the project to commence from 1st week of September 2007 and the same is expected to be completed within one month. During the course of implementation of the programme we shall avail the technical support and guidance from Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute, Central Pollution Control Board, West Bengal Pollution Control Board and Howrah District Branch of Indian Medical Association.