Workers say that they have not taken any leave for fear of losing pay

Conservancy workers attached to the Swachata Corporation who are engaged in collecting waste from households in Puducherry and Oulgaret municipalities, are battling poverty and carrying out their work without a break during the current COVID-19 lockdown in Puducherry.

The women work in three shifts, round the clock, and have been reporting for work daily in spite of transport being affected due to the lockdown.

P. Egavalli, a conservancy worker reports for work from Kandamangalam in Villupuram district, making use of the special bus services operated by the government-owned Puducherry Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) to reach Puducherry. She has to leave her home early to report for the 6 a.m. shift.

“I have not availed a single day of leave since the lockdown due to the fear of losing my pay. The monthly wage of ₹6,200 is too meagre to make both ends meet,” she says. Besides her, the family comprises her unemployed son who has studied till class X, daughter-in-law and a daughter, and she meets the family’s needs.

J. Boomadevi, another worker, said that she had a daughter who has a disability, at home, and has to manage the family even as the wage is not sufficient for the family to meet its commitments. In the current context of COVID-19, those residing in apartments and posh localities are not meeting the workers and the garbage, is kept outside the house.

“Normally, the occupants would personally hand over the garbage to us. But now they fear that if they come close to us there is the possibility of infection spreading to them. Though the Corporation has provided us with gloves and safety masks, the risk of infection is there. But we have no other option but to work to feed the family,” she said.

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