THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With no end in sight to the uncertainty over waste management in the city, the Clean Well workers who lost jobs after the closure of the Vilappilsala waste treatment plant are in dire straits.
The waste collection activities in the city was being carried out by 820 Clean Well workers from various Kudumbashree units till December 21, the day on which the plant was closed. Though some units continued to work till January-end, a majority of the 62 units are remaining defunct since the closure of the plant.
‘’For many of us, this job was our only means of livelihood,’’ said 35-year-old Fathima, a member of the cleaning squad in Chalai market. Fathima, who used to earn around ` 7,000 a month, said her family is running into a financial crisis now.
‘’I had taken a bank loan hoping to pay back with my earnings. For the past two months, I couldn’t even buy enough provisions, let alone pay loan instalments,’’ she said.
BJP councillor P Asok Kumar said that the Corporation was ignoring the services of Kudumbashree volunteers. ‘’The situation is worse. Last week, the husband of a Clean Well worker in Palkulangara committed suicide owing to financial difficulties. Another woman is desperately running for money to meet the treatment expenses of her husband,’’ he said. ‘’In many families, these women were the earning members,’’ he added.
Health Standing Committee chairperson of the City Corporation G Pushpalatha said that the Corporation was aware of the difficulties of the sanitation workers. ‘’We know that the Clean Well workers are facing difficulties. The Corporation’s plans were sabotaged after the attempt to open the Vilappilsala plant failed,’’ she said.
‘’Now, we are planning to accommodate them in some other duty for the time being,’’ she said.
Meanwhile, many workers are now doing odd jobs, though this earns them lesser wages. Latha, a Clean Well worker, now works as a part-time maid in a residence. ‘‘Sitting at home means starvation. I wish the issue would be settled soon and we could start work again,’’ she said.
The workers also allege that the political parties are turning a blind eye to their plight. ‘’Many of us are members of CPM and AITUC-led unions. But the leaders are not interested in resolving the issue,’’ a worker said.
A CDS official, on condition of anonymity, said several parties are trying to make new unions among the workers. ‘’Recently, leaders of a prominent ally of the ruling party approached the workers and promised them permanent jobs if they joined their union. Some workers have fallen in the trap,’’ she said.
‘’The UDF is not interested in solving the issue as majority of the workers are members of pro-LDF unions. The LDF seems to have failed to understand the severity of the issue,’’ Asok Kumar said.