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.