CHENNAI: The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the heads of corporations and municipalities to file a written undertaking that no manual scavenging work would be permitted in their jurisdiction.
Passing the order on a batch of pleas, the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu said the commissioners of corporations and the heads of municipalities, as indicated in previous orders, will be personally held liable in case any manual scavenging activity is detected or any mishap occurs in course thereof.
“So as not to compromise public interest, the State should endeavour to obtain appropriate machines or improve sewer lines to ensure that no manual scavenging is necessary anywhere in the State,” the judges said. It will also be the responsibility of the heads of local administration to ensure that no private person also indulges in such an activity or engages any other, the court said.
The matter was adjourned to November 10 for the State to place its template for critical guidelines to be issued in such regard. As per submissions made by the Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ramdas Athawale, in the Lok Sabha recently, 43 people have died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in TN during the last five years.
Only Uttar Pradesh, with 52 deaths, has reported a higher toll. Overall, in the last five years, 340 deaths due to manual scavenging were reported in the country, revealed the data. Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Delhi, Maharashtra, Guajarat, Haryana, and Karnataka accounted for nearly 75 per cent of the total deaths.
The National Safai Karmacharis Finance and Development Corporation is implementing a scheme, Swachhata Udyami Yojana, under which loans are given to procure mechanised equipment up to the cost of Rs 5 lakh with a subsidy of 50 per cent.