Sunday, January 29, 2023

Bombay HC Seeks List Of ‘Protective Gear’ Distributed By Municipal Corporation To Its Employees

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The Bombay High Court on Tuesday while dealing with the writ petition filed by 6277 employees of Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation directed the Corporation to file its detailed reply on distribution of face masks, hand gloves, hand sanitizers to its employees.

The High Court also directed that Corporation will disclose on oath, how often the face masks, hand sanitizers and hand gloves etc. provided to the said workers are replaced / replenished.

Writ petition was filed by “Samaj Samata Kamgaar Sangh” on the behalf of the 6277 employees, employed with Respondent Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation, whereby the matter was heard by Justice S.J. Kathawalia. The other respondent was the Municipal Commissioner of the Corporation.

It was mentioned before the court by the counsel for petitioner that out of the said 6277 workers, 3261 workers are involved in Solid Waste Management including day-to-day road cleaning and transportation of garbage. They were compelled to handle garbage and solid waste with bare hands and are not provided with any water to clean their hands and feet throughout the day and they were only provided with 2-3 drops of hand sanitizers at the Hazeri Shade before they start working and 02 drops at the end of their shift.

It was said that about 693 workers are employed in the health department, which includes duties at four Corporation hospitals and 23 Urban Health Posts across Navi Mumbai and about 65 workers are employed on cemetery cleaning duty.

The petitioner’s counsel contended that despite the workers discharging essential services and have been regularly reporting to work at their respective stations, they are not provided with any protection from Covid-19 virus such as hand sanitizers, hand gloves, face masks, PPEs etc. save and except providing low quality face masks and hand gloves on one occasion. The said workers are therefore highly exposed to catching the deadly Covid-19 virus thereby putting in jeopardy their own lives as well as the lives of their family members.

The learned counsel added that the Petitioner Union has addressed several letters to the Respondent Municipal Commissioner of the Corporation and the Deputy Commissioner, Solid Waste Management, requesting them to look into the problems faced by these workers, but there was no response received from the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner.

It was submitted that the Deputy Commissioner, Solid Waste Management visited some of the Hazeri Shades and noted that the problems of the workers were real and grave and need to be addressed at the earliest. However, thereafter no action was taken thereafter by the Respondent Corporation.

Thereafter, it was informed to the court that respondent corporation had sanctioned Rs.300/- as daily allowance to the workers and employees of Respondent Corporation. However, the said amount was not paid to 6277 workers on the ground that they were contractual labourers.

The Central Government in its Press Conference conducted on 26th March, 2020 by the Finance Minister had also announced a special insurance scheme that would cover the workers working as Safai karmacharis, ward-boys, nurses, ASHA workers, paramedics, technicians, doctors and specialists and other health workers, as well as workers at government health centres and wellness centres.

Learned Advocate appearing for Respondent Corporation said that he had instruction to state that all personal protective equipment’s including hand gloves, face masks and hand sanitizers are being provided from time to time to all the workers. 

But when the High Court inquired as to when the protective equipment’s were last provided to the workers, the learned Advocate appearing for the Respondent Corporation seeks time to take instructions.

Therefore, the Bombay High Court made the following directions: –

“In the circumstances, the Respondent Corporation is directed to file its Affidavit before the adjourned date inter alia setting out the number of face masks, hand gloves, hand sanitizers which were in their possession prior to the announcement of the lockdown, the subsequent additions thereto, along with detailed breakup of the distribution carried out from time to time till date. The Respondent Corporation shall also set out in the Affidavit the names and addresses of the individuals / firms / companies from whom the hand gloves, hand sanitizers, face masks, etc. are purchased by them and at what price. 

The Respondent Corporation shall also disclose on oath, how often the face masks, hand sanitizers and hand gloves etc. provided to the said workers are replaced / replenished. The Respondent Corporation shall place before this Court the report / comments / findings/ minutes submitted / prepared by the Respondent Corporation when the Deputy Municipal Commissioner, Solid Waste Management visited the Hazeri shades”.

-India Legal Bureau

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