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Sweepers witness to waste pile-up

More than 450 sweepers, drawing Rs 23.4 lakh from the government coffers, were not enough to keep the Nilratan Sirkar (NRS) Medical College campus clean.

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) had to be called in on Wednesday to remove 150 tonnes of refuse and bio-medical waste that had piled up on the hospital campus.

The scene at NRS is mirrored in every other state-run hospital in the city. An idle workforce. Mountains of garbage. It’s the same story everywhere.

So the Corporation has come forward with a proposal. The civic body is ready to undertake regular clean-ups at the hospitals for Rs 25 lakh every month.

The CMC’s offer makes business sense. The sweeper salary at SSKM Hospital alone runs up to Rs 25 lakh per month. Two days ago, 70 tonnes of garbage was removed from the hospital, which has 500 sweepers. If all state-run hospitals in and around Calcutta are taken into consideration, the total salary runs up to Rs 30 crore a year for 5,000 sweepers, against about Rs 3 crore that the CMC is proposing to charge.

If the proposal is accepted, it will not only save taxpayers’ money, but will give the government a path to shift the group-D employees, blamed for much of the nuisance, out of the hospital premises and allot residential quarters to nursing staff and doctors.

“If the state health department agrees, we are ready to accept the responsibility of 25 hospitals in the city. It will be a saving of about Rs 25 crore a year to the health department,” pointed out mayor Subrata Mukherjee. “We can even start a specialised wing in the civic conservancy department to look after cleanliness in the hospitals,” member, mayor-in-council, conservancy, Rajib Deb added.

“A team of 500 sweepers will be sufficient for the purpose,” said chief engineer (conservancy), Arun Sarkar.

“We have at hand a reserve force of over 1,000 conservancy labourers in the B-Panel and municipal commissioner Debasis Som, by his circular in September, has fixed their wage at Rs 56 a day,” pointed out assistant director Swapan Mahapatra. So, the hospitals can get eight hours’ service from each sweeper against the payment of a daily wage of Rs 56.

The additional advantage of the state health department would be that they would not have to provide quarters, pay pension and gratuity.

Reacting to the offer, health secretary Asim Barman said the government could explore the possibility if the proposal came.

On Wednesday, the civic conservancy team swooped down on Nilratan Sirkar Hospital with a work force of 150 labourers, 10 trucks, one pay-loader and a caged van of the dog squad. They caught 30 dogs from the campus. Mayor Subrata Mukherjee was present at the hospital during the clean-up.

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