CHENNAI: Claiming that at least 156 sanitary workers have died while engaged in cleaning sewage in Tamil Nadu in the last two decades, activists have urged the State government to implement Supreme Court ruling and provide compensation to the kin of those victims.
Submitting a petition to government officials on Monday, the activists have also demanded that all sanitary workers at least in rural areas be considered as manual scavengers and provided rehabilitation according to the law.
Representatives of various NGOs in the State, who met officials of Municipal Administration and Water Supply Department, pointed out that according to a Supreme Court ruling in March 2014, families of workers who died while working in manholes and septic tanks since 1993 have to be identified and given compensation of Rs 10 lakhs each.
The activists have already compiled a list of 156 such deaths since 1993 based on media reports. “There will be more. We asked the officials to compile the list for compensation which could be available in government records especially with local bodies, revenue department, police FIR and others,” said A Narayanan, Director, ChangeIndia.
Meanwhile, the government has undertaken a survey to identify existing manual scavengers for rehabilitation and insanitary latrines as per The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
“The survey is almost complete, but it was not done properly in some districts. We want them to extend the time and cover every place after giving it wide publicity. In rural areas, it is the sanitary worker who cleans human excreta as there is 72 per cent open defecation according to the National Sample Survey report. So, sanitary workers should also be considered as manual scavengers and be rehabilitated according to the act,” said M Ramaniah, organising secretary, Tamil Nadu Adhi Andhra Arundhadhiyar Mahasabhai.
That apart, activists have demanded setting up vigilance and monitoring committees for implementing the provisions of the act, promote environment friendly and decentralised sanitation systems, and set up committees from village to State level to coordinate activities besides raising awareness on open-defecation and building toilets.