NEW DELHI: In the ongoing Monsoon Session of the Parliament, the Centre on Monday said that over 280 people lost their lives in the last three years while cleaning sewer tanks and septic tanks.
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment told the Rajya Sabha in response to an unstarred question on the number of people who died due to asphyxiation in the last three years. As per the response, the data recorded was till August 2020.
According to the data submitted in the Parliament, there were 110 and 68 death in 2019 and 2018 respectively.
“... as per reports received from states, 288 persons have died while cleaning sewers or septic tanks during the last three years up to August 31,” the response said.
The Prohibition of Employment As Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 prohibits ‘hazardous cleaning’ of sewer and septic tanks without protective gear and other The Prohibition of Employment As Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 prohibits ‘hazardous cleaning’ of sewer and septic tanks without protective gear and other precautions.
According to figures collated by Safai Karamchari Andolan, there were 138 deaths in 2017, 112 in 2018 and 118 in 2019.
“The numbers given out by the government are underestimations. Underestimating numbers also means we are not acknowledging the loss of human lives. There needs to be a clear action plan on how the deaths can stop,” said B Wilson, convener, Safai Karamchari Andolan.
Beena Pallical, general secretary, Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan, said it was shameful that people were losing their lives cleaning sewers.
“We demand the full implementation of the Act and if changes are to be made, it must be done in consultation with the community,” she said.
There is an immediate need to end manual scavenging and civil society organisations and political parties should condemn the practice, said V A Ramesh Nathan, general secretary, National Dalit Movement for Justice.