The Delhi High Court Monday asked the AAP government and the three municipal corporations to give details of the number of sanitation workers in their jurisdictions and the number of PPE kits provided to them on a day-to-day basis during COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad issued the direction after noting that the affidavit and status reports filed by the Delhi government and the three municipal corporations were incomplete.
The court said the affidavits did not disclose the "the number of safai karamcharis in their jurisdiction visa-vis the number of masks, gloves and other PPE kits that are provided to them on a day to day basis".
It said the affidavits also do not indicate the number of containment zones declared in each of their jurisdiction so that the court can ascertain whether the requirements of the workers in those areas have been adequately met. It gave the Delhi government and the three municipal corporations one week''s time to file affidavits highlighting the points raised by the bench,
The court also told them to inform it "whether sanitizing cubicles have been installed by the civic authorities in each ward and if not, what steps have been taken to ensure that after the safai karamcharis complete their duty for the day, they are adequately sanitized".
The bench said the issue of disposal of bio-medical waste also needs to be addressed, saying it was a "critical area" in view of the petitioners contention that such waste was being dumped in common dumping grounds which in itself can become a breeding ground of COVID-19 infection.
"This is particularly a matter of concern as scavengers will be the first ones to be exposed to infection," the court said and also directed that one officer from each of the authorities be present on the next date to assist the bench in the matter.
With the direction, the court listed the matter for next hearing on June 9.
The order came on the pleas of social activist Harnam Singh and the All India Municipal Corporation Staff Union seeking direction to the authorities to provide personal protective gear to sanitation workers who are carrying out their work during the coronavirus pandemic.
Advocate Mehmood Pracha, appearing for petitioner Harnam Singh, during Monday's hearing told the court that while the authorities claim to have distributed the PPE kits, the workers on the ground do not appear to have received them.
Delhi government, in the affidavit filed through its additional standing counsel Gautam Narayan, has said that a PPE kit comprises of coveralls, masks, gloves and goggles and it has been receiving these components separately from HLL Lifecare Ltd, a government of India enterprise.
It has also said that using the different components, it has made 2.77 lakh PPE kits till May 22 out of which 2.75 lakh kits have been issued to chief district medical officers, Delhi government hospitals and health institutions, municipal hospitals and zonal offices if different municipalities where the sanitation workers have been employed.
The Delhi government has also said in its affidavit that if somebody is afflicted with COVID-19, it does not necessarily mean that it as due to non-supply of the kits.
"It is respectfully submitted that the PPE kits are not a fool-proof safeguard against the virus, but are only measures taken as a precaution to prevent contracting the virus to the best possible extent," it has said in its affidavit.