CHENNAI: The first bench of the Madras High Court comprising Chief Justice SK Kaul and Justice MM Sundresh directed the State government to instil confidence in the minds of the manual scavengers to identify themselves so that they can be rehabilitated.
While passing further interim orders on a PIL from A Narayanan, director of Change India, Virugmbakkam, seeking to prevent manual scavenging as well as compensation for families of persons killed from asphyxiation while cleaning manholes and sumps.
According to the petitioner, one of the reasons scavengers hesitate in seeking rehabilitation is they fear not being employed afterwards. This has resulted in more than 150 people being killed while performing manual scavenging work in the State since 1993. The PIL wanted the court to direct the government to implement all the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
After the High Court banned the employment of human beings as scavengers, as many as 48 workers have been killed while working as scavengers. A memorandum was sent to the Chief Secretary to arrange for payment of `10 lakh each to the families of the deceased as compensation as per directions of the Supreme Court. There has been no response to date on the matter.
When the matter came up on Friday, Narayanan, accompanied by Samuel, the State convener of TN Safai Karamachari Andolan, disputed the figures submitted by the Government in this connection. The bench said that the fundamental problem of locating and identifying manual scavengers still remains. Several camps should be held to increase awareness of the rehabilitation measures instituted so that they identify themselves and avail of the help. Volunteers in these camps will be able to help the manual scavengers in the required paperwork necessary to put forth their claims.