The younger generation aspires to get an education, find work that increases opportunities for social mobility
KARACHI: Where the prevailing circumstances may have placed many people in danger of a financial crisis, the most vulnerable among us have found themselves struggling in adversity. One such story is about some sanitation workers and sweepers employed in the city of Karachi, many of whom, having experienced differences in their fields of work, have decided to open a different path for themselves.
According to Robin Masih, a sanitation worker from Christian Colony, the majority of cleaning workers employed by various city public institutions are elderly people who belong to minority communities and live in slums in Keamari, Mauripur, Lyari, Essa Nagri, Musharraf Colony and others . area.
“Most of us have been associated with the profession for decades and are now approaching retirement age but our young generation does not want to follow it,” Masih said. “We rise with the sun and start our shifts at dawn by sweeping city streets. Even though we are supposed to work eight hours a day, shifts can often extend between 12 to 16 and sometimes 24 hours in times of crisis. We get nothing but days “religious holidays and paid a little salary make survival very difficult in this economy, let alone opportunities to improve our living conditions,” he added.
The bustling metropolitan city of Karachi, said Masih, is based on six districts and is divided into 18 cities according to the previous local body system. District Municipal Corporation (DMC) and Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) are the two main departments responsible for cleaning up the city and for this, they employ two types of sanitation workers – scavengers and sewer divers.
“It’s hard to say how many cleaners employed privately can be paid but those who work with contracts are paid between Rs15,000 to Rs20,000, which is still not much,” he explained. “Because of the small salary and tiring labor involved in this work, many of our young generation do not want to follow us. Instead, they aspire to get an education and find work in a profession that increases their social mobility opportunities. “
According to Syed Tanveer Kazmi, who is responsible for cleaning companies that provide services to local union committees, the prohibition of boys’ quota in public institutions is also the main reason behind the young generation of sanitation workers who are separating from their parents. line of work.
“Most people from the Hindu and Christian communities have dominated this field of work for a long time,” Kazmi said. “But because most workers are on the verge of retirement and no one is after them, private companies with the permission of local agencies are now hiring Afghan workers to fill, especially as scavengers.”
However, when it comes to diving gutters, Kazmi shares, the work is still held by the majority of veteran workers from religious minorities.
Responding to the plight of these workers during the pandemic, Deputy Chairman of the Central Council (UC) 36 Shamshad Zaidi told The Express Tribune that although private cleaning companies had worked under UC after securing the NOC from the DMC, no special training was given to the people people are employed as cleaners and sanitation workers.
“Many people who are related to the profession are usually assigned to sweep the streets,” he said. “However, despite the increased risk of viruses, these professionals, who are still expected to work during locking, have not been given safety equipment or face masks. The dust that constantly enters their respiratory system makes them vulnerable to respiratory diseases and the lack of medical facilities in various institutions increases their risk of giving up on the disease. “
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2020.