Mumbai: Civic conservation workers tackle virus concerns and travel more to sweep the city

MUMBAI: Glad you don't have to look into apartment windows as you sweep the streets in Prem Nagar. Until last month, residents would throw plastic or vegetable shells from their windows, some of which would fall on the 37-year-old civic worker. No longer.

If there is one lesson the outbreak has taught residents, it is that cleanliness and hygiene should be taken seriously, Kadam in Marathi said as he tugged on his gloves.

Kadam and his 41-year-old colleague have not missed a single day of work since the virus outbreak. Both are responsible for keeping a kilometer of lanes and bylanes clean in Prem Nagar. Of course, we are concerned with ourselves, Solanki said. “Despite the closure, we see residents hovering on the streets. We are afraid of contracting the virus, but we cannot stop working. In the current situation, government personnel like us and the police have a very important role to play, he added.

Solanki, a high school dropout, lives with his large family. He and Kadam work six hours every day on the streets. Their day begins at 6.30am when they register their attendance at the R-Central Ward office near the Borivli train station. “Traveling has become a problem after the trains close. I can board the BEST buses by showing my ID card, but I have to pay the fare out of my pocket. Also, traveling by bus is longer since there are several stops and I have to leave my house much earlier in the morning, ”he says.

For Kadam, who lives in Borivli, finding an autorickshaw in the morning helps. If I can't get a car, then it's a very long walk to the neighborhood office and then to Prem Nagar, he said. At home, her four-year-old daughter eagerly awaits her return in the afternoon. “My husband, a driver for a private company, is at home taking care of our daughter while I work. His company has asked all employees to work from home so that they don't have a job right now. I'm glad he has his father around since his school is closed, Kadam said.

Having worked with BMC for a decade, Kadam and Solanki earn Rs 12,000 a month. The salary is higher for those who have passed Class X, says Solanki. When asked if any of the residents have been kind to them, Solanki says that Shiv Sena Official provides them with tea and cookies every morning during recess. “What we would really like is more protection at work. Abroad, booths have been created that spray disinfectants on the uniforms of conservation staff. All we have are masks and gloves and our supervisor has a bottle of disinfectant that is saved every time we ask for it, ”said Solanki.