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Gutter workers' death: Threat of widows' hunger strike forces Gujarat govt to begin paying Rs 10 lakh compensation

By Our Representative
While the kin of 11 workers, who died due to suffocation cleaning up gutters in Ahmedabad received compensation of Rs 10 lakh each on Saturday, official communication in possession of Counterview suggests, this wouldn't have happened but for the threat issued by the city's manual scavengers, led by the widows of the dead, to sit on fast unto death to implement a four-year-old Supreme Court order.
It so happened that, on February 27, 2018, Manav Garima Trust's Parsottam Vaghela, who has been fighting for the payment of compensation, amounting to Rs 10 lakh each against the death 170 manhole workers in Gujarat, met state uban development secretary Mukesh Puri, telling him that the widows were left with no other option but to sit on fast unto death till the amount was disbursed.
If Puri asked Ahmedabad authorities to expedite the matter, 10 days later, on March 9, the state urban development department, as a second thought, sent a strongly-worded letter to the Ahmedabad municipal commissioner, telling him that the widows of those who had died in gutters would sit on protest fast in front of the AMC office. Against this backdrop, he was told to immediately pay compensation, and "ensure" that no untoward incident happened.
Even as preparations are on to make payment against the death of 16 other gutter workers of Ahmedabad next week, in all, says Vaghela, "we have a list of 48 Ahmedabad workers, highest in Gujarat, who should be paid the compensation." The death compensation is in response the Supreme Court order, dated March 27, 2014, which made it mandatory to pay compensation of Rs 10 lakh each to the kin of manhole workers who had died after 1993.
It hasn't been an easy fight for the Manav Garima Trust, a community-based organization (CBO) which has been advocating for the payment of compensation for those who died due to asphyxiation in gutters in Gujarat over the last four years, i.e. ever since the Supreme Court order. It handed over lists it had prrpared to the state government and local bodies, yet things did not move.
Finally, it approached the Gujarat High Court in November 2016, forcing urban development and panchayat departments to come up with separate notifications, declaring their intention to provide compensation. Yet, says Vaghela, the urban local body in Ahmedabad was reluctant.
"It raised various queries like whether compensation was to paid to those those kin were given 'mercy' jobs, and whether compensation would need to be paid to those who had received anywhere between Rs 1.5 to 3 lakh under an insurance scheme", Vaghela adds.
Gujarat govt letter
This led him to meet Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani last year. Rupani assured him to look into the matter. After this, sporadic Rs 10 lakh compensations began being paid across Gujarat. Last year, it was paid in the case of six workers in Vadodara, two each in Bhavnagar, Thangardh, Nadiad and Jamnagar, and one in Savarkundra, but none in Ahmedabad, even though the CBO had submitted a list of 27 persons along with all the documents.
Finally, the threat of protest fast worked. AMC issued an advertisement seeking claims for compensation, and now the compensation has began to be paid. "In all 48 persons have died in Ahmedabad. While the details of 27 have been submitted. If 11 have been paid, and other 16 will paid next week, as for rest, their documents are being preparation. A similar preparation is on for all those who had died across India since 1993", says Vaghela.

Comments

IAS Officer said…
It was a very good judgment of Supreme Court respecting the value of human life. The uppers shit, generate dirts and these poor depressed clean them for centuries but carry lowest social value.
Before SC judgement, it was a practice of passing on the buck on civic body-contractor-citizen. When modern machines are available, why to push someone’s dear into the manhole to die? This inhuman practice has to be stopped. ₹10 lakh compensation is a fine on Civic Administration to stop this practice.
Kevin Antao said…
Happy that you have written about these workers. The most exploited ones.
Uma Sheth said…
Glad to know the workers are finally being paid. In this country nothing is done by the government or municipality on their own and if it weren't for the activists the poor would be left hapless.

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