Bimit Vishwakarma, a Covid-19 waste collector from Gurugram doesn’t deny the fear that he and many of his colleagues still overcome on a daily basis while on duty. “Darr toh lagta hai, but we do our job while ensuring that we’re wearing PPE kit and maintaining social distancing,” says this executive, who is one among the many collectors visiting homes and RWAs to collect Covid waste. “Jo location di jaati hain, hum wahan pahunch jaate hain aur Covid waste collect karte hai. We have to ensure that we pick the medicines, disposable items, PPE kits, and masks from Covid-infected families or individuals. Jaise cases badhte hain, we divide our work. We park our vehicle near the house and use a stick to ring the door bell. We ask the residents to come and throw the waste in the vehicle,” adds Vishwakarma.

Bhagwati Prasad Sharma, a Gurugram-based retired Border Security Force personnel, who had recently called for waste collection from his house, recalls, “We were very grateful for the collectors. Woh apni life ko risk kar rahe hain is kaam mein. And, we, as responsible residents, need to ensure a smooth disposal of biomedical waste by segregating the waste. Ghar ka garbage nahin dalna chhaiye iske saath.”

Harsh Bhagat, another Covid waste collector from Gurugram, shares how despite taking all precautions and maintaining transparency, people are still afraid. “People message us when they test Covid positive, and then we inform them specifically that we’ll pick only the Covid waste and not the regular garbage. We follow protocol and take all precautions. Lekin log ghabrate hain. Aaj kisi ka phone aya aur woh ghabrahat mein humse kehne lage ‘Kal mere pitaji theek ho jaayenge toh aaj mat aana, kal aana waste lene’.”

Sharing what a normal day during the influx of cases looks like, Ajay Kumar, a Covid waste collector with New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) says, “Main dhai saal se Covid waste collect kar raha hoon. Hum subah 4 baje assemble hote hai. Main PPE Kit pehen ke, aur sir ka face shield pehen ke nikalta hoon. Din ke 500-700 ghar cover karte hain hum. Kabhi toh 1,000 ghar bhi ho jaate hai. Ghar jaake nahata hoon ache se. Har roz ek nayi PPE kit pehente hai. Alag toilet bhi milta hai. Mujhe abhi tak Corona nahin hua hai .”

Explaining the rigours of the process, Dr Rahul Singh, Nodal officer for Covid-19, Medical Services Department, NDMC informs, “The list of people who have turned positive is divided according to their locality and given to the collectors and drivers. They are sent fully sanitised in PPE kits. I also give them extra gloves. My prime responsibility is their safety as they go to collect the trash, which is brought to a nodal point and segregated further.”

The South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) on Friday began special arrangements to lift bio-medical waste from homes of Covid-19 positive patients in its jurisdiction and has lifted nearly 750 kilograms of bio-medical waste from all four zones from January 1 to 13. The helpline numbers for the same are 011-40988800 (South Zone), 011-49506548 (West Zone), 7290041009 (Central Zone) and 8010863863 (Nazafgarh Zone).

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