Tragic Deaths of Six Sanitary Workers Highlight Lack of Safety Measures

In a series of tragic incidents, six sanitary workers lost their lives due to the lack of safety equipment while cleaning disposal systems. This has sparked widespread outrage and demands for justice and better working conditions for sanitary workers across Pakistan.

On Tuesday, June 11, three sanitary workers from Tando Mohammad Khan town in Hyderabad, Sindh, died of asphyxia while cleaning a manhole near Aqsa Mosque. The victims, identified as Yunus Hidayat, Badal Gujrati, and Yunus Masih, belonged to the Christian and Hindu communities. Another worker was hospitalized in critical condition.

According to reports, the workers succumbed to a lack of oxygen while performing their duties. Yunus Hidayat was married but living alone, Yunus Masih left behind five children, and Badal Gujrati, who had been married just two years ago, is survived by his one-and-a-half-year-old son.

Their bodies were later retrieved by activists from a non-governmental organization, triggering an angry protest by the victims' relatives. The protestors staged a sit-in and blocked the Tando Mohammad Khan-Badin road for four hours, causing severe disruption. Seven protesters, including three women, fainted due to the scorching heat during the blockade.

Municipal Committee Chairman Syed Shahnawaz Shah addressed the protesters, announcing a compensation of Rs300,000 for each deceased worker and promising jobs for their heirs. He assured further compensation from the Sindh government, leading to the dispersal of the protesters.

In a subsequent press conference, Chairman Shahnawaz Shah and Vice Chairman Kareem Shaikh announced the formation of a seven-member committee to investigate the circumstances leading to the tragic incident. However, the Deputy Commissioner and Senior Superintendent of Police did not engage with the protesters.

In another incident, four sanitary workers were involved in a similar tragedy in Bhalwal, Sargodha. Workers Irfan Masih, Ratan Masih, and Babar Masih died due to exposure to toxic gases while cleaning a manhole, while Naeem Masih was critically injured and transferred to District Teaching Hospital Sargodha for treatment.

Following the incident, the families of the deceased staged a protest by placing the bodies in front of the Bhalwal municipal office. They alleged that the workers were not provided with any protective gear, which led to their deaths. The protesters demanded an impartial inquiry by the Punjab Chief Minister and called for legal action against those responsible.

The families also urged members of the Punjab Assembly and Parliament, especially those representing Sargodha, to address the long-standing issue of inadequate safety measures for sanitary workers to prevent further tragedies.

Maqbool Masih Khokher, Central President of the Christian Unity Council of Pakistan and Vice President of the Pakistan People’s Party Minority Wing, visited Hyderabad with a delegation to meet the affected families. They also met with the Chairman of the Municipal Committee Tando Muhammad Khan, Syed Shahnawaz Shah Bukhari, to discuss assistance for the victims’ families.

Chairman Shah assured the delegation that he had spoken to Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and would soon secure additional relief funds from the Sindh Government. The delegation included Thakur Dayram, Information Secretary of the Hyderabad Division, Ramesh Lal Chanuria, General Secretary of the Pakistan People’s Party Minority Wing District Jamshoro, Jamshed Masih Khokher, Jayala Worker from Jamshoro, and Abdul Riyasat Masih, Jayala Worker from Hyderabad.

These tragic incidents highlight the urgent need for better safety measures and protections for sanitary workers in Pakistan. The lack of protective equipment and safety protocols continues to claim lives, and immediate action is required to ensure the safety and well-being of these essential workers. The government and relevant authorities must address this issue promptly to prevent further loss of life and uphold the dignity and rights of sanitary workers across the country.