BMC teachers on COVID duty as watch guards, thrust into new role without training or safety gear
BMC teachers on COVID duty as watch guards, thrust into new role without training or safety gear

Mumbai: Over 554 BMC teachers and nonteaching staff from the distant suburbs of Kalyan, Kasara, Karjat, Titwala, Virar and Bhayandar have been mandated to work as support staff at Covid-19 hospitals, quarantine centres, containment zones and ward offices in Mumbai.

Teachers have revealed they are being forced to take up the role of watch guards without any training, lack of personal protective equipment and are being suspended if they fail to report for duty for more than two days in a row. Teachers and non-teaching staff say they are working in three 7-8 hour shifts every day.

Requesting anonymity, a teacher said, "We have to sit in a tent outside quarantine centres and containment zones, to oversee if food is being delivered to patients, whether doctors are coming for regular check-ups and to monitor public adherence to quarantine rules. We have to serve as watch guards for seven to eight hours every day.

Some of us do not have proper masks, face shields or hand sanitisers." Since some of them commute from far-off areas by bus or civic vehicle, they are late to work sometimes; and, for this infraction, they are suspended.

A staffer posted at the NSCI Dome, Worli, which has been turned into a quarantine facility, said, "We are suspended if we are late for our shift or if we are absent for more than two consecutive days. Every day, we are travelling for two to three hours from far-off suburbs and there are no trains. It is unfair that we are forced to risk our lives."

Further, this assignment is not voluntary but mandatory, revealed Swapna Kshirsagar, BMC ward officer of F/South ward (Parel and Dadar east area). Kshirsagar said, "We have received directions from the municipal commissioner.

Teachers and non-teaching staff have to serve as support staff on mandatory basis." Though this decision is being enforced by the BMC administration, the civic education department has not authorised it, nor has the teachers' consent been obtained.

MBMC Education Officer Mahesh Palkar said, "We have not received any directions from the education department." According to Sainath Durge, BMC education committee member, "If teachers and staff are facing issues then they can approach the BMC for necessary measures."

Though this decision is being enforced by the BMC administration, the civic education department has not authorised it, nor has the teachers' consent been obtained. BMC Education Officer Mahesh Palkar said, "We have not received any directions from the education department." According to Sainath Durge, BMC education committee member, "If teachers and staff are facing issues, then they can approach the BMC for necessary measures."

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