NEW DELHI: Taking cognisance of recent sewer deaths in the national capital and other states, the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) has written to the states to crack down on local authorities for their negligence.
The Commission has urged the states to declare manual scavenging as a ‘zero tolerance’ offence and to ban manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks at all costs.The letter written to the ‘chief secretary of all states’ says the Commission has taken a ‘serious cognisance’ of the lapses and laxity of the local authorities in effectively implementing the 2013 Act of Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act which outlaws manual scavenging.
In a recent visit to Chhattisgarh, the Commission recorded 10 sewer deaths since June. “There were no deaths recorded prior to this by the state administration in Chattisgarh. We are monitoring states in order to document the deaths and compile data. So far, we have recorded 634 deaths since 1993 in different states,” said Manhar Valjibhai Zala, chairperson, NCSK.
“In the deaths recorded in Chattisgarh, no FIRs were launched, the MS Act was not applied and no compensation was given. Of the 10 deaths, one was in Durg, four in Bijapur and five in Jashpur. We have reviewed all the cases,” said Zala.
The letter mentions that the lately, more cases of sewer and septic tank deaths are being reported from across the country with ‘increasing frequency’. “Untrained persons being ‘coerced’ to enter sewer tanks without any protective gear… eventually leading to deaths is a ‘gross violation’ of the provisions of the Act,” reads the letter.
NGOs working to end manual scavenging have repeatedly pointed out that the poor implementation of the 2013 Act of Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act remains the biggest hindrance in ending the practice.