Workers allege lack of basic amenities such as toilets and drinking water
The Greater Chennai Corporation has commenced a drive to promote conservancy operations at night, following the launch of new battery operated vehicles and compactors by Chief Minister M.K. Stalin a few days ago. However, the officials say they are facing several challenges, including absenteeism among workers in a few divisions, in implementing the plan.
Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi said conservancy operations at night had been extended to more roads with the launch of new compactors and vehicles.
The civic body planned to increase night conservancy along all the 471 bus route roads and arterial roads in a few months. But it remains a challenge in many interior roads. The shift has improved solid waste management in many areas, according to representatives of residents’ welfare associations.
Night conservancy has been stepped up in five zones of Tondiarpet, Royapuram, Thiru. Vi. Ka. Nagar, Ambattur and Anna Nagar this week.
Egmore MLA I. Paranthaman said the operations had improved cleanliness on bus route roads. Residents and traders in his constituency said the roads stayed clean in the morning and traffic congestion caused during rush hour by compactors occupying space on bus route roads had been reduced.
“We will start inspection of night conservancy operations this week and suggest improvements to officials concerned,” said Mr. Paranthaman. Residents in the remaining zones of Manali, Madhavaran, Teynampet, Kodambakkam, Valasaravakkam, Alandur, Adyar, Perungudi and Sholinganallur have requested the Corporation to introduce night conservancy on more roads.
Velachery West AGS Colony Residents’ Welfare Association Secretary Geetha Ganesh said: “Night conservancy was started after Urbaser took over the operations. Earlier, Ramky used to do only bin clearance at night. So, this was new to us after October 1, 2020. The night shift workers are doing a great job but residents feel that they are doing it only on main bus route roads of our areas and not on interior roads. If the night shift workers clean interior roads also, it will improve waste management,” said Ms. Ganesh.
The new initiative comes with its own set of challenges for the Corporation officials. Many workers, including women, have refused to come for night duty. For instance, in one of the divisions in Anna Nagar zone, out of 19 workers deputed for night duty last week, only 11 turned up. Three women, who earlier worked in night duty, have backed out, citing safety issues.
One of the main reasons cited by women workers was lack of access to toilets in most private commercial buildings at night. Many public toilets were also closed at night. There were complaints of non-availability of drinking water from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Mechanical sweeping and collection of garbage through compactors had improved at night. However, around 30% of the workers on night duty had been absent for the past few days in many divisions.
In each division, more than 10 Corporation employees had reported sick because of exposure to pollution. Such employees had been given exemption from night duty on humanitarian grounds. Only 2,688 workers had been identified to do night duty, utilising 158 compactors, 57 mechanical sweepers, 481 battery-operated vehicles, and covering 12,713 bins.
Conservancy workers said the supervisors were fixing a daily target for lifting garbage. This resulted in workers being forced to work till dawn and clear garbage from other areas, instead of finishing the shift at the stipulated time of 2 a.m.
“Many of us live in far-off places like Chengalpattu. We have requested flexibility in timing. We need incentive for night conservancy operations,” added a worker.
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