Gujarat government fails to enforce manual scavenging rules
Over the past three decades, Gujarat has had the second-highest incidence of cleaning worker fatalities in the nation.
AHMEDABAD: The Gujarat government has failed to enforce its own rules on sanitation workers and septic tank cleaning. The rule says a class II officer of the corporation will be held liable if a sanitation worker dies while cleaning the underground drains or septic tank. But no government official has been charged was charged with a crime despite numerous cases, according to a sanitation worker rights activist.
A circular issued by the Gujarat Government’s Urban Development and Housing on May 10, 2019 and the Panchayat and Village Development Department on July 11, 2019 stated: “If any sanitation worker dies while cleaning the underground drains, septic tank, so make a class II officer of the corporation an accused.”
However, no government official was charged with a crime despite 95 sanitation employees dying and 45 incidences happening in Gujarat, said Purshotham Vaghela, the sanitation worker rights activist. In the past 15 days, three different instances in Gujarat resulted in the deaths of seven sanitation employees.
Despite a court ruling against it, in some parts of Gujarat excrement is still manually cleaned from private and public dry toilets and open drains. Three workers died in Bharuch while cleaning the drains, two in Umargam, Valsad, while entering to clean the sewer, and two in Rajkot while cleaning underground drains due to a gas leak.
Even after the Gujarat government’s notification, no government official was named in any of the three cases.Purshotham Vaghela, who has been working for the rehabilitation and rights of manual scavengers for more than 30 years, said: “The Urban Development and Urban Housing Department Secretariat, Gandhinagar, issued a notification on 28 April 2021 to establish Emergency Response Sanitation Units (ERSU) in the state to prevent manual scavenging in cities and rural areas with a population of more than one lakh.”
Vaghela, also the founder of the Ahmedabad-based NGO, Manav Garima Trust, added that the above decision was made in response to a Government of India order to establish a Response Sanitation Unit, but none of the local bodies is aware of this Emergency Response Sanitation Unit (ERSU), and no awareness has been conducted by the state government in this regard.
“By order of the Government of India, a helpline number 14420 has been established in Gujarat to stop manual scavenging; however, when you call this number, you are given the general number of the corporation to complain there, and the number provided of the corporation accepts complaints for water and sewerage problems, not to stop manual scavenging, and a helpline has been established, but no staff has been appointed,” he said.
Over the past three decades, Gujarat has had the second-highest incidence of cleaning worker fatalities in the nation. A national government survey found that 13,460 people in the nation were employed in drain and septic tank cleaning in 2018, and that number increased to 58,098 people in 2019.
There are 105 labor families working as manual scavengers in Gujarat. Hiren Banker, a spokesperson for the Congress, said “The mortality toll from manual scavenging of drains and septic tanks in the state of Gujarat has progressively climbed to 136 in the last three decades due to poverty and a lack of alternative employment possibilities.”
7 sanitation employees died in the last 15 days
In the past 15 days, three different instances in Gujarat resulted in the deaths of seven sanitation employees. Despite a court ruling against it, in some parts of Gujarat excrement is still manually cleaned from private and public dry toilets and open drains. Three workers died in Bharuch while, two in Umargam, Valsad, and two in Rajkot while cleaning underground drains due to a gas leak.