CUTTACK: The Orissa High Court has set the deadline of January 3 for the State government to file an affidavit listing out the steps it has taken so far to implement the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act (PEMSR Act), 2013.
Recently, while hearing a PIL - ‘Deaths of Sanitation Workers’ - that it had registered suo motu on April 19 following deaths of two sanitation workers in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar, the Court asked the government to answer three questions. It was directed to give details on whether manual scavengers/sewer or septic tank cleaners have been identified and rehabilitated, if people/firms who violated the PEMSR Act have been punished as per law, and whether compensation has been paid in case of deaths of manual scavengers/sewer or septic tank cleaners.
The division bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice AK Mohapatra directed the State government to file the affidavit one week before January 10, the date fixed for next hearing on the matter. The Court set the deadline after Amicus Curiae Bibhu Prasad Tripathy pointed out that the State government was directed to file the affidavit on implementation of PEMSR Act on April 19, but there has been no compliance so far.
The Court while registering the PIL had expressed shock that the shameful practice of making the underprivileged persons undertake hazardous manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks continues unabated despite the enactment of the PEMSR Act in 2013. According to reports of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, 340 sanitation workers in India lost their lives while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the last five years.