From frontline to the forefront: The humble heroes of our society

From frontline to the forefront: The humble heroes of our society

Sudha wakes up at the crack of dawn and starts her day, not for herself but for the citizens of Noida who are still fast asleep. She cleans and washes her one bedroom apartment, cooks for her husband and three kids who are still asleep when she starts from home in the morning. She goes from door to door, emptying dustbins and collecting more waste. After a day’s hard work, she returns home, cooks dinner for her family, makes sure her children are caught up on their homework, waits for her husband to return from his job as a daily wage labourer and is the last to go to sleep even though she is always the first to wake up the very next day.

This has been her daily routine for the last 15 years. No matter what the weather, through rain, sickness, political upheavals, Sudha’s work is constant. The other thing that remains constant is her smile, that she never fails to greet people with. Sudha, a sanitation worker is an important, everyday presence in people’s lives and she helps spread health and cleanliness around her.

She belongs to the category of frontline workers who are the primary, on-ground team facilitating services directly for the masses. From nurses, retail workers, sanitation workers, transportation employees, etc, we encounter frontline workers in our lives on a daily basis. They stand on the front lines, responsible for hands-on delivery of the designated service. They are the first port of call in their specific fields and are an inevitable backbone for any occupation.

In most societies, frontline workers often work odd hours, get paid hourly and minimum wages. They do not have the luxury to maintain a strict work-life balance as their jobs take priority over their personal lives. Nurses and transportation workers often have to put the needs of others at the cost of their own constraints and sometimes even physical danger.

When it comes to health and hygiene, an important segment of frontline workers that gets often neglected are those that comprise the sanitation workforce. They silently work towards collecting and managing waste across cities. Their active involvement makes sure citizens live and breathe in a clean environment, without the risk of diseases spreading due to unhygienic surroundings.

According to WHO, 10% of the world’s population suffers from deadly diseases due to lack of proper sanitation.

But think of how many of us in our daily lives, spare even a thought for these humble heroes? When we wake up in the morning and our dustbins are clean, do we wonder what it would be like if someone didn’t do it for us? We are dependent on them at every step of our private and public lives. Hence, it is important to assist them in their daily jobs so that with the use of better facilities they can manage their jobs much more efficiently and effectively.

Clean Noida, an HCL Foundation initiative has been responsible for strategizing and implementing facilities that empower the sanitation workforce in Noida. Regular training of the workforce, distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, nukkad nataks to instill motivation along with spreading awareness towards the cause of cleanliness and hygiene are some of the initial and continuous steps taken in this direction by Clean Noida.

In a recent and much-needed move, the setting up of Swacthhta Seva Kendra has been announced, for the frontline workers of the sanitation department. The nature of the job is both mentally and physically taxing. Before, they had no way to take rest during their breaks or even keep their PPE kits somewhere when they are not working. Exhaustion, dehydration and weakness are just some of the health issues faced due to the lack of proper facilities. With the upcoming Porta Cabins slated to start functioning soon, workers will now be able to access a safe and healthy workspace where they can rest during their break, get drinking water, lockers to store their PPE kits and energize themselves after a hard day’s work. These office spaces ensure dignity and motivation for the sanitation workforce towards their job roles. Within this scope, 6 portable cabins are slated to be established at 6 dhalaos (waste collection points) identified by HCL Foundation and NDA with the seating capacity of 20 persons for each cabin. They are being constructed around the city at different locations to facilitate the sanitary workers designated at those locations.

As we battle with an emergency health situation across the globe, it is pertinent to think about cleanliness and its importance on a personal as well as community level. We need to ensure the hygiene of frontline workers themselves who are out working towards keeping the general public safe, putting their lives at risk.

The Swachhta Seva Kendras will be capacitated with clean washrooms, lockers for the workers to store their daily use PPEs, proper insulation and ventilation to cope with the summer heat, and other essentials like provision of clean drinking water, furniture, etc. These are some of the important steps towards providing a safe work space to frontline workers while ensuring they are safe and healthy.  

As Clean Noida strives to aid this initiative, general masses can also do their bit to make the lives of frontline workers better. Being aware of proper disposal mechanisms of household waste, waste segregation and its importance, avoiding littering in public and adopting a sustainable lifestyle that supports the three Rs- reduce, reuse, recycle, are some of the easier steps that can be exercised by everyone on a daily basis.

It is time we actively participate in a strategic investment in frontline workers, appreciate and acknowledge their pivotal roles in keeping us and the society healthy and reciprocate their benevolent and generous natures. So, the next time you spot the person responsible for emptying your garbage bins, stop to notice their struggle and reciprocate by stringently adopting sustainable habits that can help them better their lives and occupation.  

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