Manual scavenging rampant in Gujarat, affected families clamour for compensation

The administration has also admitted in the legislature that six of the 11 families who have lost a loved one, are yet to receive any compensation.

Published: 23rd March 2023 08:58 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd March 2023 08:58 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for illustrative purposes only. (Illustration | Amit Bandre)

Express News Service

AHMEDABAD: A sanitation worker and a contractor for the Rajkot civic authority in Gujarat died from asphyxiation on Tuesday while cleaning an underground drainage line.

Manual cleaning of septic tanks and sewer systems is not allowed without taking enough safety precautions, and there are laws prohibiting it.

On Wednesday, protesting family members of deceased Mahesh refused to accept his body until the Rajkot Municipal Corporation authorities ensured adequate compensation. After a meeting involving Valmiki Samaj leaders, civic officials and office-bearers, the government assured the family of financial assistance.

This is not the first such incident in Gujarat, with the state government admitting that as many as 11 sanitation workers have died in the last two years. The administration has also admitted in the legislature that six of the 11 families who have lost a loved one, are yet to receive any compensation.

Purshotham Vaghela, a sanitation workers’ rights activist, questioned the government figures of workers who died in septic tanks and sewer drains, "The figure of 11 people cited by the government has given in the Assembly is wrong, I have evidence that in the last two years, not 11 but 17 workers have died. Not only that, 101 workers have died in Gujarat from 2014 till now," he said.

Notably, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Bhanuben Babariya had last week informed the Assembly that “seven sanitation workers lost their lives while cleaning sewers between February 1, 2021, and January 31, 2022, while four sanitation workers lost their lives between February 1, 2022, and January 31, 2023.”

The government has also acknowledged that it has not yet distributed financial compensation to six families — two of whom lost family members in 2021–2022 and four in 2022–2023.

The state government has a plan in place to pay the family of a sanitation worker who dies while clearing sewers. The compensation amount is Rs 10 as of January 31, 2023. As a result, the state government has given Rs 50 lakh to five families over the last two years.


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