Pointing out the risk posed to pourakarmikas while collecting waste from the houses where persons subjected to home quarantine reside, the Karnataka High Court has directed the State government to take special measures for protecting pourakarmikas who collect waste from such houses across the States.
A special division bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice B.V. Nagarathna issued the direction on Monday while hearing PIL petitions on issues cropped up due to enforcement of measures to check spread of COVID-19, through video conferencing.
The State government has pointed out that the respective municipal authorities have already provided the pourakarmikas with personal protective equipment, like 2 face masks, one set of gumboots, four sets of hand gloves, apron, etc, as per the norms. Also, the government has stated that on March 19, it directed all the 282 urban municipal bodies to provide personal protective equipment, like face masks and hand gloves, to all the 17,767 pourakarmikas working in these local bodies in view of the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, the bench found that the government needs to come out with a policy decision to take special measures to protect pourakarmikas while collecting municipal solid wastes from the houses where person have been subjected to home quarantine. Further hearing was adjourned till April 3.
Though it was stated on behalf of the BBMP that one set of face mask, hand gloves, required quantity of sanitizers and disinfectant solutions have been provided and another set is to be provided, the counsel representing the BBMP Pourakarmika Sangha disputed these claims. Hence, the bench directed the BBMP to ensure that safety equipment is provided to every pourakarmika.
Transport and breakfast
The bench also directed the government to ensure that appropriate transport facilities are made available to the pourakarmikas across the State while pointing out that transport arrangement is of vital importance as, on failure to do so, this category of workmen will not be in a position to report to duty though they are playing a vital role during lockdown.
Though BBMP said that it is providing ₹100 as transport allowance to pourakarmikas, the bench found that it not practical when the public transport facility is shut across the State.
Also, the bench directed the government to ensure that all pourakarmikas are provided breakfast at mustering points in the morning, which will take care of their need for food as their duty timings have been restricted from 6.30 a.m. to 10.30 a.m. during the lockdown.
The bench also noted that the BBMP was already providing readymade breakfast to pourakarmikas at 545 mustering points.
Wakfs board must follow MHA order
The court directed the Karnataka State Board of Wakfs to take note of the March 24 order of the Ministry of Home Affairs prohibiting all religious congregations and closure of all places of worship, and should do the needful.
When it was pointed out by a counsel that direction should be issued to the wakfs board to take steps to control gathering at the time of prayer in mosques, the bench pointed out that the MHA’s March 24 order specifically directs closure of all places of worship to the public.