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Delhi HC seeks response on PIL seeking direction to clear salaries to Delhi safai karamcharis

The workers of North Delhi Municipal Corporation have been on strike since early January 2021

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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice on a petition filed by Harnam Singh seeking directions to pay salaries of sanitation workers of Delhi till January 2021.

The Petitioner, Harnath Singh, a former chairman of the Delhi Commission for Safai Karamcharis, through Advocate Mehmood Pracha, alleged that the respondents have failed to adhere to the World Health Organisation guidelines for Covid-19 and have adopted an inhumane approach towards safai karamcharis in failing to provide adequate Covid-19 safety gear and equipment.

It is submitted by the petitioner that safai karamcharis hail from the poorest sections of the society and have historically been subjected to discrimination for centuries. Therefore, the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis was constituted to protect their interests and ensure that their grievances are redressed.

The petition states that the unprecedented healthcare crisis being faced by the country due to Covid-19 has not only put the healthcare sector under tremendous pressure but has equally burdened the sanitation sector. The amount of waste generation and the nature of waste materials generated have changed significantly and biomedical waste (including used masks, gloves, discarded tissue papers containing nasal and throat discharge) has become an integral component of the domestic waste generated on a daily basis by each household.

The safai karamcharis are left with no source of information to ascertain the category of waste being generated by the households. Mixing of waste at source is also a major cause of concern as the safai karamcharis collecting, segregating and disposing the waste are not in a position to assess whether the waste being handled has been generated by a healthy individual or a suspected/probable/ confirmed Covid-19 patient, the petition reads.

It is alleged in the PIL that the respondents have not only ignored the safety and health requirements of the safai karamcharis through the entire pandemic but have failed to pay them their salaries, arrears and other outstanding dues leading to a union of safai karamcharis writing letter dated January 18, 2021 to the Commissioner, East Delhi Municipal Corporation, drawing attention to the fact that their salaries, arrears and rightful dues are not being paid.

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The petitioner said due to the said situation, workers of North Delhi Municipal Corporation have been on strike since early January 2021, while workers of the East Delhi Municipal Corporation have also announced a strike recently. As sanitation workers have been compelled to take drastic steps, it has serious implications for sanitation, cleanliness, and safety of the general public.

The plea said that the petitioner had earlier moved the Supreme Court of India and Delhi High Court last year raising the issue of lack of basic safety equipment for sanitation workers, which was disposed of with the observation that the respondents had accepted that WHO guidelines for the provision of safety equipment to sanitation workers are binding on India and were being strictly followed.

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After considering the facts of the petition, the division bench of Justice D.N. Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh on Wednesday issued notices to Delhi Government, National Commission for Safai Karamcharis and the Central government through the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in the matter and posted the matter for March 19, 2021 for the next date of hearing.

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