Harsh penalty required to end manual scavenging: Madras HC

The Madras High Court directed the State government to bring effective measures to completely eradicate manual scavenging and impose harsh penalties as a deterrent factor.

Published: 11th November 2021 03:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 11th November 2021 03:05 AM   |  A+A-

Manual Scavenging

For representational purposes (Photo | EPS)

By Express News Service

CHENNAI: The Madras High Court directed the State government to bring effective measures to completely eradicate manual scavenging and impose harsh penalties as a deterrent factor. “Provide some meaningful measures to completely eradicate the practice of manual scavenging, including some harsh penalty as a deterrent,” said the First Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu on Wednesday.

A status report has been filed by the government accepting several recommendations made by the advocate for the petitioners. But, there are minor differences in the quantum of compensation to be paid upon death, the enumeration of the number of scavengers and, inter alia, how the family members may be educated or otherwise sensitised and accommodated in other jobs, the judges stated.

They agreed with the petitioners’ assertion that the compensation for death, Rs 10 lakh, is too low since the cost of living and price indices have uniformly gone up since it was determined in 2014. “There has to be enumeration of the manual scavengers and something has to be done socially for them. Opportunity to regular life should be made available,” it observed.

Ordering the government to file a further status report, the bench posted the matter to 8 December.
Government Pleader P Muthukumar informed the bench that all the municipal commissioners have filed affidavits stating that they will not engage scavengers.

The counsel for Safai Karamchari Andolan, one of the petitioners, Srinath Sridevan wanted the court to order prosecution of the civic body heads as a deterrent measure even though the government has been stating that the criminal action is initiated against the contractor and disciplinary proceedings against the local body heads.

All the prosecutions launched, even against the contractors, did not reach the crucial stage. The penal provisions in the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavenging Act remains to be paper compliance, he noted.

“State says there are only 462 manual scavengers as per the enumeration of 2014 but our findings revealed the real number is 3,000 plus. So we want a re-enumeration in order to rehabilitate them. And compensation for death has to be increased to Rs 50 lakh,” he urged.


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