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Hitherto Untold Stories Of Sweepers Working Under IMC

Women Sweepers out on their daily chores. Image Credit: Sangai Photo.

IMPHAL, Feb 10 : Apart from facing harsh and insulting words from people who believe in the superstition that seeing brooms in the morning is a bad omen, sweepers on the roads of Imphal city have not been getting their salaries regularly.

To keep the roads of Imphal city neat and clean, around 29 women sweepers currently employed under Imphal Municipal Council have been sweeping the roads every morning except on Sundays. Starting their duty from 5.30 am in winter and from 4.30 am in summer, these women sweepers demarcate their area of responsibility and sweep the roads of Paona Bazar, Thangmeiband, Governor’s Road, Chief Minister’s Secretariat, Nagamapal, MG Avenue and other Government offices.

But most passers-by and particularly those who are short tempered and superstitious  treat these women sweepers with scorn, saying that it would bring them bad luck to see the broom so early in the morning.

In some cases, the women have to face the ignominy of being slapped and their brooms snatched away. In such a situation and in spite of being employed and working under the Imphal Municipal Council, there is perpetual fear in the heart of these women sweepers over the possible chance encounter with some short-tempered passers-by.

In the event of confrontation and argument, the women sweepers are usually told to perform their duties before any one comes ventures out for the day, after all that they are being paid for that.

Sweepers being employed under Imphal Municipal Council are paid around Rs 7000 as monthly salary by the Government of Manipur. However, they do not get their salaries regularly.

Yet, when any of these sweepers fall sick and could not attend duty, officials who supervise their attendance never fail to write “absent” against their names in the register leading to a cut in their monthly salaries.

Initially, there were more than 100 women sweepers at the time Imphal Municipal Council started functioning. But in due course of time, the number of sweepers had to be whittled down while on the other hand, all the roads have been widened to accommodate the growing traffic volume. This has made it increasingly difficult for the remaining sweepers to keep the roads neat and clean.

The condition of the road along Nagamapal is so bad with potholes everywhere that one broom does not last for five days. On the other hand, inspite of being in service for so long, the Government has not taken up any welfare measures for these women sweepers. These women sweepers may be using mask to cover their noses at the time of sweeping the dirt and dust particles from the roads. But there is no foolproof method to keep away all the dirt and dust particles.

As a result, many of the women sweepers suffer from health complications like respiratory and heart problems, TB, cancer, etc. According to an official source, Imphal Municipal Council has now inducted 28 wheelbarrows for lifting the dust and other filth gathered by the sweepers. At one time, the number of wheelbarrows in the service of the Council was too few that it was a problem to collect the garbage and tow it away.

But with the induction of 14 Tata Tippers and use of JCB since September last year, the task has been made easier. Five more Tata Magics have been reportedly procured but they are yet to be operationalised, the source added. The source, however, admitted lack of manpower including sweepers and laborers in the light of road expansion and increasing number of markets.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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