Baramulla Nov 21: Bashir Ahmad hits a street in Khoja Bagh Baramulla as the clock turns 7 in the morning pushing his broom across the streets of Khoja Bagh.
Nothing deters him, not even the fog and chill, from pursuing his work commitment to sweeping the area that is designed for him.
As the clock strikes 7 am, it is not just another day of work for Bashir but it is a commitment to keep the area clean, regardless of the fog and biting cold.
But Bashir is not alone in this endeavor. Dozens of sweepers like him, both male and female, dot the streets of Baramulla town, each with a dedicated area to clean. The commitment to their duties is unwavering, even in the face of the foggy and chilly winters that grip the region.
As Bashir tackles the highway, his female counterparts, Saleema and Haja, navigate through the fog to reach their designated spots at inner lanes and link roads of Khoja Bagh.
“No matter what, we ensure that we reach our dedicated spots to clean the area. Fog or chill cannot be an excuse for us because we understand the importance of our work,” says Saleema.
The roster includes numerous female sweepers assigned different areas in Baramulla town under the jurisdiction of the Baramulla Municipal Council (BMC).
These dedicated individuals brave the early hours, putting their commitment to their jobs above all else.
Salma, a female sweeper in her 40s, is one such example. Sharp at 7 am, she arrives at her assigned area, ensuring the roads are clean before the town awakens.
“Being a female, I prefer my job over my family and leave my home early in the morning to clean the area. I do not even care about cooking breakfast for my family but ensuring that I reach my area on time,” says Salma.
The sweepers, both male and female, return home in the afternoon, sometimes later, to join their families. “We have opted for this, and we believe it is our primary duty to do it on priority. We are paid good salaries as well,” Salma said.
Rustum, a male sweeper at BMC, along with his colleagues, converges on the main town of Baramulla, diligently cleaning their designated areas.
“We are dotted on streets during wee hours as we are allotted main market areas, so we ensure to clean in the early hours only,” Rustum states while underlining the strategic timing of their efforts.
Provided with uniforms and shoes for both summer and winter, the sweepers are equipped to face the challenges of the harsh weather.
“In winters, we are provided jackets, gloves, and shoes to keep ourselves warm. Last year we were provided uniforms for winter months and for this year, the department has made a requisition for our uniforms as well,” Rustum said.
However, it’s not all smooth sailing for these unsung heroes. Despite their contentment with salaries and other financial benefits, the sweepers express a legitimate concern — they are assigned more areas than they can reasonably cover.
An official at BMC acknowledged the issue and attributed it to the shortage of sweepers.
“For example, one sweeper who should be assigned 100 meters and instead 200 meters are assigned because we have a dearth of sweepers here, and the available lot do not reach every spot. So we double the area,” the official admits.
He said the number of available sweepers stands at 126, but numerous positions are vacant due to retirements or unfortunate deaths, creating a challenge for BMC.
“The town is expanding with each passing year, while the sweeper strength remains the same. Giving them additional areas is totally unjustified, but we have no other option because the areas will otherwise remain unattended,” the official said.