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Thursday, July 18, 2024

We cannot even afford to give gloves to garbage collectors in Goa


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In the picturesque state of Goa, known for its pristine beaches and vibrant culture, there lies an unseen workforce often neglected and unappreciated: the garbage collectors. These individuals play a crucial role in maintaining the cleanliness and sanitation of our communities.

However, their work conditions are far from ideal, often putting their health and safety at risk. The government must step in to ensure municipalities provide garbage collectors with essential protective gear, such as gloves and proper clothing, to uphold their dignity and well-being.

Garbage collectors in Goa, much like their counterparts across India, face daily exposure to hazardous waste without adequate protection. This exposure includes not only household waste but also potentially dangerous medical and industrial waste. The lack of proper protective gear—such as gloves, masks, and durable clothing—puts these workers at high risk for infections, injuries, and chronic health problems.

A typical day for a garbage collector in Goa begins in the early hours, often before sunrise, and involves physically demanding tasks. Without gloves, they are directly handling waste, which can contain sharp objects, toxic materials, and biological contaminants. The absence of protective clothing means they are susceptible to cuts, bruises, and skin infections. These conditions are exacerbated during the monsoon season, when waste becomes wet and heavier, further increasing the risk of injury and disease.

We, Goans, often pontificate over trivial issues while failing to address the basic needs of garbage collectors. Despite the significant sums spent on attempting to solve the garbage conundrum in Goa—sometimes resulting in ineffective and costly failures—no substantial effort has been made to secure the simplest of protections for these workers. The social activism fraternity, too, has not advocated vehemently for something as fundamental as gloves and proper clothing for garbage collectors. It is a glaring oversight that reflects misplaced priorities and a lack of basic human decency.

The health risks faced by garbage collectors are significant. Direct contact with waste can lead to various diseases, including skin infections, respiratory problems, and gastrointestinal diseases. Prolonged exposure to unsanitary conditions can also result in chronic conditions such as asthma, tuberculosis, and other respiratory ailments.

Moreover, the socioeconomic implications of these health risks are profound. Garbage collectors, often from marginalized communities, lack access to proper healthcare and social security benefits. Illnesses and injuries not only affect their ability to work but also strain their already limited financial resources. This creates a vicious cycle of poverty and ill health, perpetuating their marginalization.

The Goa government, in conjunction with municipal bodies, has a moral and administrative responsibility to safeguard the health and safety of garbage collectors. Providing them with gloves, masks, and appropriate clothing is a fundamental step towards this goal. These items are not luxuries but necessities that can significantly reduce the risk of injury and illness.

Municipalities should also implement regular health check-ups and training programs for garbage collectors. These programs can educate workers about proper waste-handling techniques and the importance of personal hygiene. Additionally, ensuring that waste is segregated at the source can help minimize direct contact with hazardous materials, making the job safer.

Investing in mechanization where possible, such as providing garbage trucks with automated lifting and compacting systems, can further reduce the physical strain on workers. However, such technological advancements should not replace but rather complement the essential human labor force, ensuring that workers’ livelihoods are preserved while their working conditions are improved.

The garbage collectors of Goa are the unsung heroes of our communities, working tirelessly to keep our environment clean and safe. It is high time that their contributions are recognized and their working conditions improved. By providing them with gloves, proper clothing, and regular health check-ups, the Goa government and municipal bodies can make a substantial difference in their lives. This not only upholds the dignity and health of the workers but also reflects a society that values and protects all its members, especially those who toil behind the scenes to keep it functioning smoothly.

Ensuring the well-being of garbage collectors is not just a matter of policy but a reflection of our collective humanity and commitment to social justice. Let us advocate for better treatment of these essential workers, recognizing their invaluable contribution to our society.

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