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Gujarat govt unwilling to pay heed to manual scavengers: Only 3 of 101 who died "qualified" as gutter workers

By Rajiv Shah
Latest information gathered by Dalit rights NGO Navsarjan Trust on the basis of a right to information (RTI) plea suggests that a total of 101 persons, mainly belonging to the Valmiki community, died in Gujarat as a result “accidental deaths” while working as safai karmacharis between 2005 and 2014. Out of this, in as many as 46 cases no compensation has been paid so far, while in rest of the 55 cases Rs 58 lakh was paid up. Significantly, the RTI reply suggests, only three of the 55 safai karmacharis who have  are been paid compensation were found to “qualify” themselves as having died while working as gutter workers in manhole.
The three who died due to asphyxiation and hence were paid Rs 2 lakh each, according to the RTI reply, were Sanjaybhai Rathod from Bhuj, Rameshbhai Solanki from Ahmedabad, and Ramanbhai Sonara from Ahmedabad. As for rest of the 52, they were paid just Rs 1 lakh each, as their death was considered “accidental”.
A recent Supreme Court order wants all state governments to identify all those who died while working in gutter since 1991, and pay them Rs 10 lakh each. It is not known if the Gujarat government will be ready to consider those “died accidentally” while working as safai karmacharis as manual scavengers and pay up Rs 10 lakh.
The RTI reply further shows that of the 46 who have not received any compensation, 15 are those whose applications were “rejected” because of various reasons.
The reasons include “delay in providing necessary documents” -- which need to be handed over to the insurance company – from five to 11 months in five cases, “natural death” in a couple of cases, failure to identify as manhole worker in a case, having received compensation under some other scheme in one case, and lack of evidence in rest of the cases.
In another 19 other cases in which the compensation has not been paid, the RTI reply suggests, the kin of the safai karmacharis who died failed to provide “sufficient documents, delaying payment.” The RTI reply has been signed by project consultant LV Maheshwari of the Gujarat Safai Kamdar Vikas Nigam (GSKVN), Gandhinagar, which happens to be a state government outfit.
In some of the cases the insurance company was “unable to decide” on whether to pay or not, while in others there was “failure” on the part of the kin to provide post mortem report, or forensic science laboratory report, or necessary bonds, or the case is pending in consumer court. Another 12 died more recently, in 2014, hence would be entitled to compensation later.
“All those whom the government says died due to accident met their fate due asphyxiation in the gutters”, said Navsarjan Trust’s Kirit Rathod, a senior activist, adding “These deaths suggest the Gujarat government is openly violating guidelines of the Gujarat High Court and the Supreme Court, which want proper care to be taken before sending workers in gutters.”

Comments

Jagdish Patel said…
There is no information on if the survivors filed claims under Employees Compensation Act and if so what happened to it? Why should workers depend on such welfare schemes when it is a right

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