CUDDALORE/ VILLUPURAM: Although the Cuddalore administration prepared for cyclone Nivar well in advance, nearly 500 sanitary workers, including 50 from Tiruchy district, were forced to work amid incessant rainfall without even basic equipment such as raincoats and gloves.
However, workers had and wore their face masks. The situation was similar in Villupuram, the only difference being that workers there did not have masks.
The 500 sanitary workers have been engaged within Cuddalore municipality for management of relief camps and shelters, tree cutting and clearing off roads, evacuation and clearing water blockage. However, most of them were left to work without even basic gear.
“We get raincoats from the municipality, but not every year. Mostly it's worn out in a few months. We were not given raincoats or gloves particularly for the cyclone and it is impossible to hold an umbrella and work. Over the years, we have become used to working in the rain,” one sanitary worker said.
The 50 workers sent from the Tiruchy Corporation also did not have raincoats or gloves. Although several of them tried to purchase raincoats in Cuddalore town, most shops were shut due to the cyclone.
In Villupuram municipality, only 40 workers were on duty on Wednesday and were forced to without masks, gloves or raincoats. Workers said they were given raincoats in January but they were already damaged and could not afford to buy new ones.
"We were given cloth masks but there is no use wearing them in the rain because it will get wet and it will become difficult for us to breathe. The gloves provided are cloth ones that cannot be used to pick up garbage in the rain,” Munusamy, an elderly worker near KK road said.
“We are told to buy our own plastic gloves but we can't afford it everyday,” he added.
A 45-year-old female worker said that none of the gear provided was practical for their work. "Before the pandemic, we did not have any protective gear. Now, thanks to Covid-19 we got masks and gloves but both are a material that will only make it difficult to wear and work. We want plastic gloves and masks to be given regularly. On rainy days, we also need plastic caps at least so we don’t have to take plastic bags from the trash to cover our heads,” she said.
Cuddalore municipality commissioner Ramamurthy said that raincoats were given once in three years. “However, arrangements will be made if necessary,” he said.
A supervisor in the Villupuram municipality admitted that the fabric gloves were more suitable for summer and that officials would resolve the issues at the earliest.