The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Rural Sanitation Workers in Haryana
*Faculty of Sociology, School of Liberal Education, FLAME University, Pune, firstname.lastname@example.org.
†Assistant Professor of Psychology, School of Interwoven Arts and Sciences, Krea University, Sricity, email@example.com.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused significant changes in the world of work. While pandemic-induced lockdowns caused disruptions in the employment conditions and earnings of wage earners in general, Covid-19 had a differentiated impact across different groups of workers (Bonini, Mukherjee, and Roig 2020; Jaga and Ollier-Malaterre 2022; Kalhan, Singh, and Moghe 2020, 2023; Oxfam India 2021; and Sethu and Thangaraj 2021).1 In a multi-country survey on the labour-market fallout of Covid-19, Soares and Berg (2022) reported that workers who were vulnerable in the labour market saw their vulnerability rise as a result of the pandemic.
During the pandemic, a section of workers in India, as elsewhere in the world, were termed “frontline” or “essential” workers, based on the tasks they performed. There is now a literature on the increased health risks and challenges faced by these workers while carrying out their responsibilities, and the inadequate social protection provisions that were available to them (Anner 2020; Desai 2021; Hujo 2021; and ILO 2020). There is differentiation also within the category of frontline workers, influenced by factors such as the social valuation of work, nature of employment (temporary or permanent), bargaining power of workers, the prestige and status attached to different types of work, and caste, class, gender, and other identity markers of workers (Kantamneni 2020; Malik 2021; McQuade et al. 2022; Niyati and Mandela 2020; Reid and Schenker 2021; and SWAN 2020).
Sanitation work is, of course, critical for a society’s well-being and survival. However, for those who undertake this work, it is traumatogenic and stigmatising (Ambedkar 1944/1989; NCSK 2020; Ramaswamy 2005; and Wilson and Singh 2016). Sanitation workers, who bear higher-than-usual risks in carrying out their work, were given additional duties during the pandemic, including the disinfection of public spaces against the virus. The hazardous nature of sanitation work thus intensified during the pandemic (Nigam and Dubey 2020; Sanchita 2021). WaterAid (2020), which reports on studies conducted in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan, recorded special problems faced by sanitary workers during the lockdown. Sanitation workers were ill-equipped to manage the risks posed by Covid-19. They did not receive specific guidance or formal training, and did not have adequate access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and hand-washing and cleaning facilities. Sanitation workers were unable to gain access to health insurance and other forms of social protection. There were also reports of sanitation workers being forced to work against their will by employers, as well as instances of attacks, stigmatisation, eviction from accommodation, and ostracism during the pandemic (UMC and WaterAid India 2020, p. 18).2
This is a study of the impact of the pandemic on the working conditions of rural sanitation workers, – who were in acute need of supportive policy mechanisms during the pandemic – and an analysis of the challenges and dangers of working during the pandemic. To our knowledge, this is the first study on the impact of the pandemic on rural sanitation workers in India.
Sanitation workers in rural Haryana were interviewed on their work experience during the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021. We explored how this workforce was pushed to carry out tasks and duties beyond the official mandate, without compensation or safeguards. We assessed the response of the authorities towards their health and safety. The study shows that social security systems, which should have protected their rights, did not keep up with the new demands and needs of these workers. In the absence of social protection mechanisms for rural sanitation workers, the role played by workers’ unions during the pandemic was vital in addressing the demands and concerns of workers.
Our research was conducted among rural sanitation workers in the State of Haryana. At the time of the study, the State employed approximately 10,800 sanitation workers. Sanitation workers have an active and strong union presence in Haryana.
The study covered a total sample of 40 workers through snowball sampling including at least one worker from each of the 22 districts of the State of Haryana.3 Adequate representation of women workers was ensured while conducting the interviews; they comprised one-fourth of the respondents. Workers were interviewed over the phone in July and August 2021 as physical access was restricted because of the lockdown. We solicited descriptive responses from the participants on certain questions such as additional duties and obligations performed by them during the pandemic, fears and concerns they experienced while working during the pandemic, the support provided by the local administration, and the role of the unions in taking up and responding to their demands and concerns during the pandemic. The responses to these questions were coded and analysed using thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2012).
In addition to this, in-depth interviews of key office-bearers of the Gramin Safai Karamchari Union (hereafter GSKU) were conducted to corroborate and elucidate the responses of workers.4 Press communications by office-bearers of the union and media reports on union actions that highlighted the demands of the rural sanitation workers during the pandemic were also used. After doing a preliminary analysis of the responses, we sought participant validation for our findings through the method of member checking (Candela 2019; Thomas 2006, pp. 243-44). We presented the research findings during an in-person consultative meeting with a group of survey participants and other rural sanitation workers from the State on November 9, 2021. Observations and responses received in this meeting have been added to the survey findings and discussion.
Sanitation work has been historically associated with the Dalits, especially the Balmiki caste. Even though sanitation workers are recruited through an official process of advertisement of posts and recruitment is open to all, our data showed that all 40 respondents were Dalits: 35 of them belonged to the Balmiki caste, three were from the Chamar caste, and one each from the Dhaanak and Bazigar castes. Half the respondents were in the age group of 31-40 years, 16 were between 41 and 50 years, and four belonged to the youngest age group, 20-30 years. Of the 40 workers who were interviewed, eight reported having been schooled till the Class 5, 20 had completed between 6 and 10 years of school, six had studied till Class 12 and above, and five were without any schooling. Of the 40 respondents, 32 had been working as sanitation workers for 10 years or more. The service conditions of workers were contractual and they are paid maasik maandey (a monthly “honorarium”) of Rs 12,500 – of which, after deducting for the Employee Provident Fund (EPF), they got Rs 10,900 in hand.5
Five workers reported salary and other dues that were pending at the time of the interview: for one worker a month’s salary, for two workers two months’ salary, for one worker seven months’ salary, and for one worker allowances worth approximately Rs 8,000 were pending.6
Duties and Obligations During the Pandemic
We asked workers about their usual tasks before and after the pandemic, and compared the two. We estimated that rural sanitation workers performed approximately 35 different tasks as part of their duty before the pandemic, mainly related to garbage collection and disposal, cleaning public spaces, drains, and toilets, and undertaking work at private and official events.7 What we did ascertain is that even before the pandemic, workers needed to enlist the labour of a family member, or even sub-contract work to another person, in order to be able to complete their work on time.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, rural sanitation workers were given several additional tasks in addition to their pre-pandemic duties and obligations. The worker respondents listed 24 additional tasks that they were obliged to perform in 2020 and 2021. These tasks are grouped under three categories, as follows: (i) undertaking preventive measures against Covid-19; (ii) forcing compliance with lockdown restrictions and setting up health infrastructure; and (iii) interacting with Covid-19 positive patients and disposing medical waste.
As may be expected, sanitation work increased dramatically during the pandemic, as demonstrated by the tasks listed under category one of Table 1 – Preventive measures against Covid-19. Sanitation workers had to sanitise and fumigate villages, hospitals, and vaccination centres. Tasks under the other two categories do not fully qualify as sanitation work. The second category, “Compliance with lockdown restrictions and setting up health infrastructure,” lists the vigilance tasks sanitation workers were required to perform to keep the villages safe. The workers were required to stand in for village sentries (chowkidar) during the lockdown, guarding the entry points of the village and stopping people who were trying to enter the village. These tasks positioned them outdoors and in unsafe conditions for extended periods of time. In addition, workers were responsible for setting up Covid-19 treatment centres and vaccination centres in the village, and also for disseminating public notices regarding testing and vaccinations. They were required to accompany doctors on their rounds through the village, and even manage the Covid-19 centres in the absence of doctors or nurses. These were all tasks that have no relation to sanitation work. Finally, under category three, “Interacting with Covid-19 positive patients and disposing medical waste,” sanitation workers were tasked with directly interacting with patients who had been tested Covid-19 positive, accompanying doctors making visits to Covid-19 positive patients, and collecting and handling medical waste from houses and hospitals. These highly specialised tasks increased the risk of sanitation workers contracting the deadly virus. Workers needed special training and PPE to safely interact with infected people or material. However, all the survey respondents said they had received no training or PPE, and that they were required to carry out these tasks at the risk of contracting the virus and spreading it among persons they came into contact with. Again, these were tasks that were not part of regular sanitation work and were imposed on the already overburdened workforce of sanitation workers. Sanitation workers thus became multipurpose workers in the villages, and first in line for local authorities to put at risk.
|Preventive measures against Covid-19||Compliance with lockdown restrictions and setting up health infrastructure||Interacting with Covid-19 positive patients and disposing medical waste|
|Sanitising the village with hand-machines mounted on motorcycles and tractors||Putting up barricades at village entry points during lockdown||Sanitising houses with Covid-19 positive patients|
|Fogging/fumigating the village||Guarding village entry points during lockdown||Collecting garbage from Covid-19 positive houses|
|Sanitising Covid-19 centres||Checking people at village entry points||Visiting Covid-19 positive patients with ASHA or Anganwadi workers|
|Sanitising vaccination centres||Making rounds in the village to check on outsiders||Barricading houses with Covid-19 positive patients|
|Visiting houses to convey announcements about testing for Covid-19||Setting up Covid-19 centres||Putting up noticeson houses with Covid-19 positive patients|
|Making announcements about vaccinations||Converting schools into Covid-19 centres||Cleaning Covid-19 centres and vaccination centres|
|Setting up vaccination centres||Disposing medical waste and PPE|
|Managing Covid-19 centres in the absence of doctors/nurses||Attending to patients at the Covid-19 centre|
|Accompanying doctors on rounds in the village||Changing sheets in the Covid-19 centre|
Source: Survey data.
Sanitation workers performed several pandemic-related additional duties that were added to their usual workload, and this increased their work hours significantly. Of the 40 interviewed workers, only two said they were not given any additional pandemic-related tasks (because their villages were not affected by the virus). For the remaining 38 respondents, there was extra work on a regular basis. Many workers were unable to quantify the extra time spent on pandemic-related tasks, since there was no fixed schedule for their work during the pandemic. Some of them did, however, report working up to four extra hours per day during the second wave of the pandemic, which lasted for a few months. They were summoned when a positive case was reported in the village, during visits of doctors or other health workers, or for any other task that the village head (sarpanch) assigned them. Because of these extra tasks, their usual cleaning work had to be completed by working extra hours or on Sundays. The workers reported that they did not have their usual weekly break between March and June 2021, which meant they worked all seven days of the week for four months. No one received any extra payment for the additional work.
In response to the question, “Do you feel safe while carrying out your job?” 14 respondents replied affirmatively and 26 negatively. The sanitation workers interviewed in this study spoke about their fears and concerns related to working during the pandemic. Eleven major fears and concerns emerged through the conversations, and these are organised and categorised under four themes, as below:
In theme one, “Fear of contracting the coronavirus,” the sanitation workers were concerned about contracting the virus and dying because of it. Several added that the fear was heightened by thoughts of what would happen to their children or families if they were to die as “Corona warriors.” Some were also afraid of passing it to their family members, since their work put them at higher risk of contracting and spreading the illness.
Under theme two, “Increase in the amount of daily work,” we grouped the concerns of sanitation workers regarding the significant increase in work burden during the Covid-19 pandemic. We have listed the new tasks and duties that sanitation workers were required to do, and the increase in the number of daily work hours from the first lockdown up to the present. The increase in work-load was an ongoing concern for many respondents.
In theme three, sanitation workers spoke about their concern at being treated with hostility by members of the public. People placed great pressure on sanitation workers to meet their demands, which went beyond the usual set of duties and obligations of sanitary workers, and put them at greater risk of contracting the virus. Sanitation workers were often threatened by members of the public and the government to comply with new demands, while their concerns for safety were not taken into consideration.
Under theme four, “Apathy on the part of the government,” we grouped the concerns sanitation workers experienced. These included new duties foisted on them, which led to them being unable to complete old tasks on time, leading to more complaints and threats from members of the public or the government. Workers were not allowed to take time off (other than on medical leave), and the option of staying indoors in home quarantine was not offered to them. The government did not institute social protection measures to look after this essential workforce; they were given meagre safety gear and no training on how to safely handle infected material.8 Several respondents said that the government did not care about their lives, safety, and well-being.
Roshni, 41, from Sirsa district, commented on the indifferent attitude of the State towards sanitation workers:
We are called “Corona warriors” . . . but we are scared of the virus too. We interact with so many people on a daily basis and it is difficult to detect who is positive. We are asked to collect garbage from houses with Covid-19 positive people without being given any protection or safety gear. The government thinks the virus is our relative and it can harm anyone but us. We too have families and children. Why does the government not think about us? They have abandoned us completely this time.
Workers’ Safety and Well-being: Responses of the State and Workers’ Unions
Response of the State
The concerns and response of the State authorities regarding the safety of different sections of the frontline workers can be assessed from the protection provisions that were put in place during the pandemic, such as providing the required safety tools and gear, training and awareness, adequate monetary compensation for the work performed and risk involved, and other social security mechanisms.9 We examined the State’s response towards rural sanitation workers in Haryana by directly asking the workers what they had been provided in 2020 and 2021 for their protection and safety.
Three main precautionary provisions were critical in ensuring the safety and well-being of the frontline workers: availability of safety gear and tools; vaccination; and testing for the virus. The workers were asked about their experience of accessing these provisions. We found that there was no provision for disbursing the basic essential safety gear on a regular basis to rural sanitation workers. Out of 40 interviewed workers, only three workers had the required safety gear at the time of the study. Most workers reported receiving no safety gear or tools from the authorities. This was the norm across all the districts of the Haryana. Workers who did receive some of these items said that it was inadequate for their needs: for example, they were given a small bottle of sanitiser, two or three masks, and a pair of gloves once in 2020. Five workers said they received some of these items once again in 2021; thus the gap between the first and second disbursal was one year. As a result, the workers were put at the frontline without ensuring the minimum requirements for protecting themselves.10
Dollar Singh, 41 years of age, employed in a village in Fatehabad district, said:
During the entire duration of the pandemic, we were given four masks, two pairs of gloves, and one small bottle of sanitiser. These items did not last even for a week. We had to spray disinfectants and do fogging in the village twice a week, sanitise the village Covid-19 centre every day, and collect garbage from the centre. We had to buy safety gear with our own money. A basic quality washable mask costs 60 rupees and can be used for ten days; a pair of gloves costs 50 rupees and it is hard to use it more than four times. We cannot afford to spend so much money every week. We carry a bar of soap and water with us to wash our hands frequently during the day, and use a gamchha (towel) to wrap around our faces.
All 40 respondents reported that they had to buy masks, soaps, sanitisers, and gloves out of their own pockets on a regular basis in the initial phase of the pandemic. Eventually, when the spread declined in 2020, they shifted to using gamchhas, handkerchiefs, and chunni (scarf) as face masks. As the infection picked up in early 2021 with the advent of the second wave, many spent money from their own pockets to buy safety gear. Respondents who were also union office-bearers said they submitted their demands for the distribution of safety gear to the local administration, but government officials were not interested in addressing these basic demands.11
Even as late as August 2021, most of the surveyed sanitation workers were unvaccinated, even though vaccination of frontline workers had to be given priority according to government policy. At the time of the study, 23 workers out of a total of 40 had received one dose of the vaccination, while only seven workers had received both doses. The remaining 10 were unvaccinated. The surveyed workers expressed their inability to access vaccination camps because health officials kept delaying their vaccinations. This barrier to receiving vaccination was an outcome of the caste biases of the officials that devalued the lives of Dalit sanitation workers, noted many of the participants in the study.
Three workers reported that they had tested positive for Covid-19 in 2019, and two more said that they might have been positive since they experienced all the symptoms of the infection but could not access tests to confirm the diagnosis. Six of the interviewed workers and their family members reported having mild fever, cough, and flu-like symptoms. A major problem was the lack of testing facilities in the rural areas of Haryana (Singh 2021). Even where a testing facility was available, our respondents told us, and they tried to approach the local health centre, they were discouraged from taking the test in order to keep the official numbers of positive cases low! Of the abovementioned five cases in our dataset, four respondents sought some kind of treatment. Three of them took treatment at a private health facility, spending between Rs 10,000 and Rs 35,000, while one obtained free treatment at a government hospital. In two cases where the respondents were unwell and likely to be Covid-19-positive, they sent their sons to do cleaning jobs as replacement workers; in two other cases their co-workers shared the work among themselves; and in one case the worker had to hire a replacement for five days at Rs 400 per day. Even in confirmed cases of having tested positive for the virus, the local administration did not provide any assistance. Three respondent workers reported a family member being infected with the virus, and in two of these cases, the family member died. The death of a sanitation worker from Covid-19 was reported in the same block as that of one of our survey participants.
Not a single safety workshop, or training or awareness camp was held for sanitation workers regarding safety measures and protection from the virus. None of our respondents received any guidelines from the Health Department or other concerned departments on how to protect themselves, while all of them were put to work at pandemic-related tasks.
Response of workers’ unions
As part of the study, we asked the participants if they were members of any workers’ union. Out of a total of 40 participant workers, 39 reported that they were affiliated to a workers’ union: 35 of them were members of the GSKU affiliated to the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), three were members of the Haryana Gramin Safai Karamchari Sangathan affiliated to the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), and one worker did not know the name of his union. All respondents told us that they had approached their unions regarding their demands and concerns during the crisis of the pandemic. It was obvious from their responses that the unions were a source of strength and support for many workers.
The respondents and the office-bearers of GSKU confirmed that the union played a role in the withdrawal of the government notification that stipulated sanitation workers’ involvement in the cremation of those who succumbed to Covid-19. On April 20, 2021, district authorities of Fatehabad, Bhiwani, Hisar, and Jhajjar issued letters mandating the constitution of a committee to carry out cremations in case of Covid-19 related deaths in the villages; the committee would include one safai karamchari (sanitation worker), one chowkidar (village sentry), and one representative each from the Block Office and the Health Department. At that time, urban sanitation workers in Haryana were being given safety gear and paid Rs 2,000 risk allowance (zokhimbhatta) per body to be cremated, but there was no such provision for their rural counterparts. The GSKU asked the workers to boycott the government order and not carry out any cremation work. After the unions intervened, other districts in the State stopped issuing such directives.
Another issue of contention between the workers and the State was health insurance. The State government had committed to provide life insurance to frontline workers under three categories: doctors would receive policies of Rs 5 million each, nurses and police personnel Rs 3 million each, and others Rs 2 million each. Even at the end of May 2021, rural sanitation workers were not insured under any category. Rural sanitation workers across the State observed May 20 as a protest day, and the GSKU announced that if the demands to insure sanitation workers, dispense safety gear, and provide risk allowance were not met, sanitation workers would go on a strike on May 27. On May 22, 2021, the State government announced that rural sanitation workers would be provided life insurance of Rs 2 million each in case of death from Covid-19.12 Mobilisation of rural sanitation workers in the State by unions throughout the pandemic period played an important role in highlighting the demands of this socially marginalised section of the work force.
Discussion and Policy Recommendations
This study is a first attempt at taking stock of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on rural sanitation workers in India, the majority of who come from socially disadvantaged groups. During the pandemic, sanitation workers were called essential workers and “Corona warriors,” since the work they performed contributed to the fight against the pandemic and could not pause even for a day. While people were restricted to their houses for months at a time during various lockdowns, the essential workers had to carry out their high-risk work. This study tracks the additional work duties and work hours, and concurrent fears and concerns borne by rural sanitation workers in the State of Haryana, which employs these workers under the Panchayati Raj Department. The study provides an opportunity to examine the realities of working as a Corona warrior. The responses received through the telephonic interviews were analysed to take a close look at their work conditions, and unpack some of the complexities of performing this labour during a catastrophic event such as the Covid-19 pandemic. The findings of the study show how already overburdened sanitation workers were turned into multipurpose village workers during the pandemic, who went on to carry out as many as 24 tasks in addition to their regular duties of cleaning and disposing garbage. The additional tasks were primarily related to preventive measures to stop the spread of the virus and enforcing compliance with Covid-19 protocols.
Workers were not provided any basic safety tools or protective gear. The State did not put in place any social welfare and protection policy mechanisms for rural sanitation workers. The workers were also deprived of monetary compensation for the extra work performed by them for more than a year. The workers recalled how their position in the rural social hierarchy made the situation more challenging, as they were subjected to constant threats and humiliation from residents of the villages and local authorities. The workers belong to the Scheduled Castes, and their caste status was an important factor in how workers were treated by the State and by upper-caste sections in the villages. Societal responses during the pandemic exacerbated the oppression of workers already discriminated against by the caste system.
Workers’ unions played an important role in raising demands to protect workers during the pandemic. They were successful in some instances by putting pressure on the State to withdraw anti-worker decisions. Workers’ unions become more significant when government policies are not enough to ensure social protection and the well-being of workers and their family members. Our analysis helps to prescribe mechanisms to safeguard the well-being of these workers. We list below some policies that would support this vulnerable workforce.
Acknowledgements: We are grateful to our respondents for taking time during a difficult period to share their experience with us. We acknowledge help from Mr. Vinod Kumar and Jai Bhagwan and other trade union activists for helping us at different stages of this research. We thank the referees of this journal for their comments and suggestions.
1 The Oxfam India (2021) report detailed the unequal healthcare story of India, and found that during the pandemic the “general” category performed better than the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) on various health indicators, Hindus performed better than Muslims, the rich performed better than the poor, men were better off than women, and the urban population was better off than the rural population.
2 The India-based sub-report was jointly investigated by the Urban Management Centre (UMC) and WaterAid India. While admirable in its scope, this report does not touch upon the work conditions and challenges faced by rural sanitation workers.
3 Since the conditions and experiences of the workers across the State were more or less similar, the saturation principle played a role in limiting the sample size (Mason 2010).
4 Before conducting the research institutional ethics clearances were procured, and informed verbal consent was taken from all the participants before the interviews. All identifiable details such as the name of the respondent, village, and district have been changed to protect the identity of the survey participants.
5 Access to EPF (Employee Provident Fund) and ESI (Employee State Insurance) was achieved by the unions after a long struggle in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
6 The longest pending salaries were in Faridabad district where 24 villages were merged into the Faridabad Municipal Corporation in November 2020, and 57 sanitation workers from these villages were absorbed into the Municipal Corporation. Starting January 2021, their salaries have been withheld for twelve months. The workers and their families staged a protest outside the Corporation office for more than five months, and finally on November 15, 2021, the Corporation Commissioner issued a letter for their official joining as Corporation workers.
7 Elaboration of the usual duties and obligations of the sanitation workers is beyond the scope of this paper. Rajeshwari (2008) finds that rural Haryana lags behind many States in terms of access to drainage and sanitation facilities, resulting in a large population defecating in the open, which makes the job of village sanitation workers more challenging and demanding.
8 Vinod Kumar, general secretary of GSKU, told us that out of a total of 140 blocks in the State of Haryana, only 12–14 blocks distributed safety kits consisting of a mask, personal protective equipment (PPE) suit, gloves, soap, and sanitiser in May 2021. Some blocks provided a random combination of four items from this list. These blocks were three each in Faridabad, Jind, and Bhiwani, two in Fatehabad, and one each in Nuh/Mewat and Charkhi Dadri. He added that on May 12, 2021, the Director of the Panchayat Department officially instructed the district authorities to disperse safety kits to the rural sanitation workers, but most districts took no action. The union pursued the matter, and the Director issued another letter on May 31, but it again hardly made any difference and no safety kits were distributed.
9 Isha (2021) reported that in May 2021, the Haryana government agreed to provide life insurance of Rs 2 million in case of a worker’s death from Covid-19 under the “Other” category. In July 2021, the State government also started to pay out a differentiated hiked salary to sanitation workers, based on their urban or rural location. ANI (2021) reported that the monthly salary of sanitation workers in rural areas increased from Rs 12,500 to Rs 14,000, and for those in urban areas the salary increased from Rs 15,000 to Rs 16,000, with the stipulation that if the salary was delayed, Rs 500 would be awarded with the next month’s salary as additional compensation. This was a long-standing demand of the workers’ unions, pre-dating the pandemic. The announcement was not put into practice till after the sanitation workers’ union gave a call to picket (gherao) the house of the Deputy Chief Minister and Panchayati Raj Minister in Sirsa, on July 17 and 18.
10 Kumar and Shetty (2021) found that even in urban areas of the State, sanitation workers were not provided with adequate safety gear or safety measures.
11 Our findings were corroborated by media reports. A local daily, Jagran (2021), reported that only four out of 140 blocks in Haryana had received safety gear by June 1, 2021, leading to a strike by sanitation workers in Fatehabad.
12 The GSKU sent letters and memorandums to the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister and Minister of Panchayati Raj, Director Panchayati Raj, and Chief Secretary on April 26, May 12, 14, 22, and 29 of 2021, regarding their demands. On June 1 and 27, protest demonstrations were organised at block and district headquarters respectively across the State. Rural sanitation workers gathered in Sirsa on July 17 for a two-day picket (gherao) of the Minister’s house; on the first day itself the Minister agreed to the demands of the workers, including issuing the notification of a pay hike from Rs 12,500 to Rs 14,000 per month, which had been pending after the Chief Minister had announced it on April 4, 2021.
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Date of submission of manuscript: May 26, 2023
Date of acceptance for publication: July 27, 2023