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  • Author: Shubhagato Dasgupta, Tripti Singh, Anju Dwivedi
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Case Study
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: Despite precarious working conditions, sanitation workers provide an essential service at the cost of their safety, health, and dignity. With the outbreak of COVID-19, their position is further jeopardised. The situation is likely to become more grave if these invisible frontline workers continue to interact with communities either without or with inadequate protective gear and safety equipment. To combat the ongoing public health crisis, while most strategies focus on scientific and technical solutions crucial to contain the epidemic, simultaneously there is a need to strengthen preparedness and response measures to safeguard these invisible frontline workers. Against this background, a rapid research study was launched to delve deeper into issues sanitation workers face during COVID-19 lockdown across ten cities. Findings and learnings from the study highlight the lived reality of sanitation workers during COVID-19. These vibrant voices showcase variations among sanitation workers across the country based on the nature of their contract, typology of work, the procedure of work, access to protective gear and safety equipment, provision of training, and awareness of institutional response.
  • Topic: Labor Issues, Sanitation, Cities, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Ashwin Parulkar
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Case Study
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: In May 2020, about 50 residents of a cluster of homeless shelters near the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital tested COVID-19 positive. Officials from the Delhi Shelter Urban Improvement Board (DUSIB), the state nodal agency responsible for the capital’s approximately 220 24X7 night shelters, later admitted these residents to nearby hospitals but did not initiate widespread testing in Delhi’s shelters. The AIIMS shelter cluster consisted mostly of tent structures set up by the government each winter on a temporary basis. Their tenure was extended this year to accommodate more people in need during the nation-wide Lockdown. AIIMS shelters were crowded spaces. The tents were 600 square feet in size and officially reserved for 50 residents – just 12 square feet per person. About 18 people actually used these tents each night, indicating that 33.8 square feet of personal space existed between residents. This is far below the national shelter floor space guideline of 50 square feet per resident stipulated by the National Urban Livelihood Mission Scheme of Shelters and endorsed by the Delhi High Court and the Honorable Supreme Court. Floor space constraints pervade Delhi’s homeless shelter system. DUSIB allots, on average, 18 square feet of personal space to the 18,478 residents that the system’s 223 shelters can officially accommodate. About 7400 people - 40% of the system’s official residential capacity - use these shelters. The amount of personal space available to these residents – the true as opposed to official shelter area - is 45 square feet per person. This tells us that (a) the average Delhi shelter operates at full capacity to overcrowded conditions and (b) the low percentage of homeless people who use the capital’s shelters represents a limit of how many people can access shelters, not merely the number who do. In that context, this study examines the question: What is the extent of overcrowding in Delhi’s shelters and its implications on the ability of residents in these spaces to socially distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19? Through an analysis of (a) occupancy, residential capacity and floor-space data archived by DUSIB; (b) district-wise homeless and overall population estimates tabulated by the Census; and (c) discussions with DUSIB and Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials , this study examines the nature and implications of limited floor space across Delhi’s homeless shelter system to ascertain the extent to which the system’s capacity and coverage problems are: rooted in shelter planning and design; and how in that context, shelter space constraints may pose a public health risk to homeless people during the COVID-19 pandemic districts with rapidly growing overall populations where such space shortages are concentrated may continue to exclude homeless people from shelter; and shelters that, comparatively, have more space may also have the potential to accommodate more people, at least in the near-term.
  • Topic: Homelessness, Public Health, COVID-19, Housing
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India