New Delhi, Apr 9 (PTI) A plea seeking to ensure protection of rights of 'safai karamcharis' (sanitation workers) during the nationwide lockdown in wake of COVID-19 outbreak has been filed in the Supreme Court.
The petition by activist Harnam Singh sought COVID-19 Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) for sanitation workers within a period of 24 hours and provisions for testing the workers and their immediate family within 48 hours.
"Safai Karamcharis/sanitation workers carry out the essential service of keeping every city, town and village clean, sweep the roads, carry waste of every household, clean sewers etc." the petition said.
"In order to carry out the said work, these Safai Karamcharis/sanitation workers are not equipped with any COVID-19 protective gear/Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to safeguard them from the highly infectious coronavirus," it said.
Referring to a technical brief and an internal guidance issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the PIL said that the organisation had stated that sanitation workers have to wear appropriate PPE which includes protective outerwear, gloves, boots, goggles or a face shield, and a mask while carrying out their duties.
The plea contended that 'The Prohibition of Employment As Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act 2013' makes it clear that cleaning of sewers or septic tanks without protective gear amounts to hazardous cleaning and attracts penal consequences.
The Union Health Ministry on Thursday stressed on the rational use of PPE by healthcare workers treating coronavirus patients amid concerns over their dwindling numbers in the country.
Joint Secretary at the Health Ministry Lav Agarwal said there is no need to panic as India has sufficient stock of PPE and the government is making all efforts to augment their supply further.
Addressing a daily briefing at 4 pm to provide updates on the COVID-19 situation, he said that 20 domestic manufacturing companies of PPE have been developed.
"Orders for 1.7 crore PPE have already been placed with them and supply has already begun," Agarwal said.
Since Wednesday, 540 cases of the coronavirus infection and 17 deaths have been reported, taking the total number of COVID-19 cases in India to 5,734 and death toll to 166, he said. PTI PKS