Mumbai: BMC frontline workers anticipate return of pandemic surge

During the COVID-19 pandemic, frontline workers kept the country running, putting their own health and safety at risk. Now, one year since lockdown was first imposed in the city, the BMC frontline workers (FLWs) anticipate the return of COVID-19 surge as the number of cases witnesses jump in the city.

The BMC administration has admitted that they can neither afford to implement staggered working hours for their staff like state government employees nor can reduce the attendance capacity.

Till September 2020, as many as 2,588 employees had contracted the virus. According to data from BMC, the number of civic employees who contracted the disease has now jumped to 6,079 since April 2020 till date. Of the 6,079 employees, 5,047 have already recovered from the infection. Those who contracted the virus include 2,364 civic health workers. Of the total lot, 197 succumbed to the infection.

According to the BMC officials, most employees who tested positive for COVID-19 are from the Solid Waste Management (SWM) Department and Health Department, including many staffers who worked at the ward level.

“These are frontline staff who come directly in contact with COVID-19 patients, work at containment zones and have been assigned fieldwork,” a BMC official said.

Maximum employees who lost their lives due to COVID-19 included workers from SWM Department, which collects garbage, including biomedical waste, from assigned areas — have died of COVID so far. Around 45 workers of the municipal solid waste management department have died due to coronavirus infection. Others who succumbed to the infection are two dead including two department heads, two from the Tax assessment and collection department, 37 from the health department, 10 from the Mumbai fire brigade, 13 from the security guards. Also among the dead nine were contractual workers/health workers.

"We had a very bad time during the lockdown, travelling to work, had no idea of what we are actually dealing with, while others have been asked to sit at home. But it is our duty and we have to do that. However seeing that many of those who died on duty due to covid19, their families are yet to receive the financial aid, I feel very bad, " A Parab, a BMC conservancy worker.

Ramakant Bane, General Secretary of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Employees Union, said, "State Government employees are getting all kind of relaxations and support, on the other hand, BMC workers who have been working day and night on the ground to ensure the safety of the citizens during the pandemic are left to suffer and die. BMC employees too must get similar facilities as what we have been demanding."

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