The festival season is anything but a cheerful time for a small group of people - the ten cleaning workers of the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC) whose responsibility it is to keep the Kozhikode beach clean for evening strollers and other visitors.

A morning visit to the beach during this season can be an unsettling experience. The long expanse of sand stretching between the two historic piers is strewn with food waste to plastic covers. The 10 women dressed in green have an almost impossible task at their hands everyday. They pick each of the covers by hand, collect it together and sweep the entire stretch clean, back-breaking work, enough to engage a 100 people.

“We have been doing this for the past nine years. Though it is beyond our capabilities, we somehow manage to clean up. But festival days are what we fear the most. People just throw away stuff absent-mindedly. The same people expect the beach to be clean when they come here every time,” said one of the workers.

Programmes of political parties and cultural organisations also create the same problems. “The situation is similar to this when an event like Malabar Mahotsavam takes place or during a political party’s rally. The volunteers are energetic in setting up the stage and arranging the flags. But once it is over, the waste is left to us.”

The 10 women have been appointed as part of the Kozhikode Beach Clean Destination Campaign of the DTPC. The workers were taken from the Kudumbasree pool.

“We are paid Rs.150 a day for this work, which is a pittance considering the effort it takes to cover the whole beach.

“Added to that, the DTPC officials say we don’t work properly. It is hard to bear such insult after putting in so much effort,” said a worker.

They say they have not got new gloves or overcoats in the past one year.

When contacted by The Hindu, Jessy Helen, Secretary (in charge) of the DTPC, said she was yet to receive any complaints about shortage of workers.

“The DTPC is yet to receive any such complaints. But if there is such an issue, appropriate action will be taken.

Right now, the wages for the workers are being paid by the Kudumbasree. In case we take more workers, we will have to find our own funds to pay them,” she said. The wayside vendors at the beach, after seeing the plight of the workers, decided to give them a helping hand. They were seen on Monday morning cleaning the beach along with the DTPC workers.

“We decided to take an off today and help them out. If this waste remains like this, no one will visit the beach. It gives out a heavy stench and is an eyesore. We try to help them out occasionally,” said T. Noushad, who sells ice-creams on the beach.

The lack of proper dustbins and awareness is pointed out as one of the reasons for the situation.

“We have boxes tied to our carts and have display boards on our vehicles asking customers to deposit waste materials in the box. But still the litter remains the same,” said Sasi, a vendor.

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