In a glaring instance of indifference, the Gujarat government has failed to execute the crucial provision of a 2013 law which requires payment of Rs 10 lakh compensation for the death of 152 manhole workers in a decade due to asphyxiation in the state.
Bringing this to light, Jitendra Rathod, senior activist with Ahmedabad-based NGO Janvikas, says, the Supreme Court order dated March 27, 2014 wanted the provision of the payment of compensation under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, to be strictly implemented with retrospective effect.
Stating that “so far no action has been taken by the state government in last two years in implementing the 2013 Act”, Rathod blames the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK), which is supposed the implement it.
Quoting from the Act, which came into effect on December 6, 2013, Rathod says, the NCSK is required to not only “inquire into complaints regarding contravention of the provisions of this Act, and to convey its findings to the concerned authorities with recommendations requiring further action.”
It is also mandated to “take suo motu notice of matter relating to non-implementation of the Act”, even as advising Central and the state governments for “effective implementation” of its provisions. Also, it is empowered to “call for information with respect to any matter specified in that subsection from any government or local or other authority.”
“I filed a complaint on September 10 on non-implementation of the Act of 2013 with the NCSK”, says Rathod, but says, he was “shocked” to find that the contents of the NCSK website is outdated by 20 years.
“It quotes 1991 census for Scheduled Castes (SCs) population”, Rathod says, adding, “It quotes the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines Prohibition Act, 1993”, instead of the latest 2013 Act.
At one point, says Rathod, the website, which talks of Integrated Low Cost Sanitation Scheme and National Scheme for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers, hopes to eradicate the “inhuman practice of manual scavenging will December 31, 007.”
“There is nothing about the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, the judgment of the Supreme Court to identify and award compensation of Rs 10 lakh, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules 2013, or the Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers, as revised in November 2013”, Rathod says.
Nor does the website have any “system for redressing grievances, roles and responsibilities of the SCSK to ensure effective implementation of the Act of 2013”, he adds.
Further, he says, ““In grievances section, there is nothing about manual scavenging in the website”, pointing out, “We have concrete details of more than 200 spots in Ahmedabad city, where sweepers are forced by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to manually clean/handle/remove human excreta every day.”