CHENNAI: Nine years after their husbands died while cleaning a septic tank in an apartment complex, two widows of manual scavengers finally have a glimmer of hope to receive government aid. Express had reported their plight about a month ago, following which the Chennai Corporation took the steps in this regard.
In a written to reply to Express, the Corporation said steps were taken to ensure that the widows, K Nagammal and R Emilia, were provided the compensation amount by the owner of the private apartment in Pallikaranai where B Kanniah and B Ravi lost their lives while cleaning a septic tank in September 2007.
Though the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 mandates a compensation of `10 lakh to families of the deceased manual scavengers, these two women are yet to receive it.
“Since the private apartments allowed them to work without proper equipment or safety gears and no supervision of qualified engineers, this is the responsibility of the apartment proprietors to compensate the deaths,” the Superintendent Engineer (Solid Waste Management) from Chennai Corporation said, reacting to the report.
Notices were sent to Ganesh Vembu, head of residents group, by the zonal officer, but elicited no reply, the official added. A reminder was sent on Thursday warning that appropriate action would be taken for not following the Supreme Court order dated March 2014.
While the civic body claimed that they were pursuing the matter with the residents, activists from Safai Karamchari Andolan (SFA), a national manual scavenging eradication movement, pointed out that this was a violation of orders by the Supreme Court and most recently by the High Court of Madras.
While hearing a public interest litigation, the High Court had held that the government cannot absolve its responsibility of paying compensation on the ground that the employers, who are private parties, did not pay the compensation.
Instead, it should pay compensation and recover the same from the private parties, the first bench of Chief Justice SK Kaul and Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana said on January 18.
When Express tried to contact Ganesh Vembu, he was unavailable for comment at his residence at Pallikaranai.