Tamil Nadu tops list of manhole deaths in India

Demanding strict ban on manual scavenging, activists have urged the Union and State governments to take proactive steps on the matter.

Published: 23rd April 2022 07:38 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd April 2022 12:16 PM   |  A+A-

Manual Scavenging

Image used for representational purpose. (Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

MADURAI: The multiple awareness programmes and crackdown measures have not stopped Tamil Nadu from getting the dubious distinction of being first in manhole deaths in the country. With 218 deaths over the past 29 years, Tamil Nadu is way ahead of runner-up Gujarat, which registered 153 deaths in the same period, as per data from the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK).

With Sivakumar (45), Lakshmanan (31) and Saravanan (32) perishing after inhaling poisonous gas while getting into a drainage well at Nehru Nagar in Madurai town on Thursday night, the menace of sewer deaths has again come to the fore. It has also come to light that the victims were not conservancy workers, but electricians working in Chennai. Corporation Commissioner Dr KP Karthikeyan said city police and corporation officials have launched separate inquiries into the incident.

Meanwhile, VCK district secretary P Kathiravan said Nehru Nagar Councillor Amutha's husband Davamani had forced the workers to enter the drainage well to lift up a damaged motor equipment. "They were not provided any safety gear. No protocol was followed during the work. Almost all the people who die in manhole mishaps belong to the Scheduled Caste (Aruthathiyars). In Thursday's incident, two victims belonged to Backward Class; third person was from Most Backward Class," he added.

Demanding strict ban on manual scavenging, activists have urged the Union and State governments to take proactive steps on the matter. Speaking to TNIE, National Commission for Safai Karamcharis former chairman M Venkatesan said an average of seven people perish in Tamil Nadu sewers annually. "Announcing solatium after the mishap is not enough. No amount can compensate for loss of human life. Steps must be taken to end the practice altogether," he said.

"Another bone of contention is the IPC section under which police book those responsible for manhole deaths. All these cases are booked under section 304 A (negligence leading to death). Bail can be easily obtained under this section, and hence the perpetrators always go scot free. Also, if the mishap occurs in corporation limits, the Corporation Commissioner should be named accused in the case, and `50 lakh compensation must be provided. Only then authorities will earnestly work to prevent these incidents," he added.
On request of anonymity, a cleanliness worker, who has been employed with the Madurai Corporation for the last 15 years, said he was working under a contract company based in Chennai. "Only one machine is available with the corporation for removing sand or solid particles stuck in drainage wells or manhole. This machine cannot remove the clog completely. The authorities then force us to enter the manhole. If we refuse to enter, they will threaten to sack us from work. Due to the repulsive stench, most workers enter the manhole after consuming liquor," he said.

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Madurai MP S Venkatesan urged the Tamil Nadu government to provide maximum compensation and government jobs to the victims' legal heirs.

Sewer deaths as per National Commission for Safai Karamcharis data (from 1993 to 28.02.2022):

State -- Number of deaths

Gujarat 153
Uttar Pradesh 107
Delhi 97
Maharashtra 39
Rajasthan 38
Haryana 84
Tamil Nadu 218
Andhra Pradesh 22
Punjab 43
West Bengal 23
Goa 6
Uttrakhand 8
Madhya Pradesh 16
Telangana 17
Bihar 2
Odisha 2
Puducherry 9
Karnataka 86
Kerala 13
Chandigarh 3
Tripura 2
Chhatisgarh 1
Total 989


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  • Deena Dayalan

    Davamani should be charged for multiple murders. For 29 years Corporations could not procure equipment to clean the drains? Incredible! Teach people also about their civic duties. Prevention is better than cure.
    3 months ago reply
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