More than 30 sanitation workers have died in Delhi after being infected by the COVID-19 virus - to which they were likely exposed while performing their duties amid a viral outbreak that has killed more than 4,000 people in the national capital alone and over 50,000 across India.
The families of most of these men and women are still struggling to get the compensation announced by the MCD (Municipal Corporation of Delhi).
Many MCD sanitation workers have also claimed that they do not receive adequate protective equipment from the authorities. They say that all they have received in the name of protective gear since the lockdown was announced in March are some face masks.
"We are not provided with anything to protect ourselves from the virus. We received masks initially but that was months ago. Officers say there is no stock now. We have been demanding masks and sanitisers for a long time," Rajkumar, who works at a dumping ground in East Delhi's Chander Nagar, said.
"Now we have started to buy protective equipment on our own," he added.
Rajkumar is over 50 years old and is also a diabetic patient.
The condition of contract workers is possibly worse, since they fear being fired if they question the authorities. This means only permanent employees can make demands of the MCD.
"We are contractual employees. If the MCD workers are not getting anything what will we get? Nobody has come. We have no gloves or sanitiser. For months we are not getting salary, but nobody comes to ask us," Sandeep, who has worked on contract for the MCD for over 10 years, said.
At another dumping ground in east Delhi, this time in Ghazipur, Pritam said he had been given just two pairs of gloves.
"Is Covid not a disease that affects sanitation workers? No treatment... nothing is being provided to us. We are told that every few hours you should change the face mask, but we don't know if will we get another one," he said.
However, the EDMC (East Delhi Municipal Corporation) has denied shortage of equipment to any worker, whether permanent or contract.
"From day one we have ensured total distribution of protective equipment. We never distinguish between permanent and contract employees and have ensured mask, sanitisers and gloves are distributed to all employees," the EDMC said.
Earlier, in a petition filed before the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that the guidelines issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO) are binding on the Indian government and were being followed.