Skip to main content

Manual scavengers' deaths: Reason is "poorly designed" sewage treatment plant in Delhi, proliferating in cities

Counterview Desk
The Karnataka-based Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi (SKS), an organisation working towards complete eradication of the caste-based practice of manual scavenging, commenting on the death of 5 workers – Umesh (22), Raja (22), Pankaj (26), Sarfaraj (19) and Vishal (20) – on account of being made to clean a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) at DLF Capital Greens, a residential complex in Moti Nagar, West Delhi on September 9, 2018, has said that these deaths “were not accidental and preventable”.
In a statement, SKS says, “These are only the latest in a series of deaths of workers STPs”, insisting on the need for ”concerted action from Union and State governments is urgently required to prevent further loss of lives in STPs.”
In a statement, KB Obalesh,
 state convener, Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi, Karnataka, says:
As environmental regulations under the The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 across the country have mandated treatment of wastewater by large housing complexes, Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) have proliferated across large cities in the country. While making these regulations, no thought has been given to the question of who is going to clean them. Several of these STPs are ill-designed and do not include adequate measures for operation and maintenance.
The STP at DLF Capital Greens in Moti Nagar, for example, was either not designed or not maintained properly, otherwise it would not have had untreated human waste producing poisonous gases which asphyxiated the 5 workers. It did not even have stairs for workers to enter and exit. Many of the agencies contracted to operate and maintain these STPs employ casual workers to clean the tanks in violation of Section 7 of The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, as was the case at DLF Capital Greens in Moti Nagar. Often these workers are Dalits as were some of the workers who died on September 9 at DLF Capital Greens in Moti Nagar.
Because of these reasons, STPs are emerging as the new killing fields of manual scavenging after sewer lines, manholes and septic tanks. In the last two years in Benglauru itself, at least 8 workers have been killed in 4 incidents while cleaning STPs. These deaths are NOT accidents and could have been prevented if appropriate regulatory framework for STPs had been put in place by Union and State governments.
Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka demands following urgent steps from Union and State governments:
1. The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 needs to be amended to explicitly prohibit manual cleaning of Sewage Treatment Plants.
2. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) should come out with guidelines on design, operation and maintenance of STPs and should formulate a regulatory framework for STPs which should include following features:
a) Unless the STP design adheres to the prescribed minimum design specifications, the State Boards should not grant Consent for Establishment (CFE) to the developers;
b) Similarly, unless an empanelled agency with competence in Operating and Maintaining STPs is employed by the Apartments, Consent for Operation (CFO) should not be granted by the State Boards;
and
c) The competence of these agencies should be vetted by the State Boards before empanelling them.
To bring justice to the families of the 5 workers, Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka demands following actions by the authorities:
  • As per media reports, it appears that the FIR in the case has been registered under IPC Sec 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 304A (causing death by negligence); Section 3 (1)(j) of The SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act; and Sections 7,8 and 9 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013. Additionally, IPC Sections 336 (Act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 337 (Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) are also clearly attracted and should be added to the FIR.
  • Under Section 23 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, “Where an offence under this Act has been committed by a company, every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to,the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly”. Hence, not only the supervisor, but the proprietors of the private companies responsible for the maintenance of the STP should also be named as accused in the FIR.
  • A compensation of Rs 10 Lakh should be provided to the dependents of all the 5 workers in accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court in Safai Karamchari Andolan & Ors. vs Union of India.
  • Additionally, a compensation of Rs 4.5 Lakhs under SC/ST Atrocities Act 1989 as amended in 2016 should also be provided to the Dalit victims of this tragedy.
We sincerely hope that Union and State governments will wake up from their slumber now and take all steps including the one suggested above to ensure that no one else will be killed in STPs.

Comments

TRENDING

Green revolution "not sustainable", Bt cotton a failure in India: MS Swaminathan

Counterview Desk
In a recent paper in the journal “Current Science”, distinguished scientist PC Kesaven and his colleague MS Swaminathan, widely regarded as the father of the Green Revolution, have argued that Bt insecticidal cotton, widely regarded as the continuation of the Green Revolution, has been a failure in India and has not provided livelihood security for mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers.
Sharply taking on Green Revolution, the authors say, it has not been sustainable largely because of adverse environmental and social impacts, insisting on the need to move away from the simplistic output-yield paradigm that dominates much thinking. Seeking to address the concerns about local food security and sovereignty as well as on-farm and off-farm social and ecological issues associated with the Green Revolution, they argue in favour of what they call sustainable ‘Evergreen Revolution’, based on a ‘systems approach’ and ‘ecoagriculture’.
Pointing out that Evergreen Revol…

World Bank clarifies: Its 26th rank to India not for universal access to power but for ease of doing business

By Our Representative
In a major embarrassment to the Government of India, the World Bank has reportedly clarified that it has not ranked India 26th out of 130 countries for providing power to its population. The top international banker’s clarification comes following Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal’s claim that India has “improved to 26 position from 99” in access to electricity in just one year.

Some Hindu bodies in US defending BJP-RSS' divisive, violent activities: Agnivesh

Counterview Desk Last week, Washington DC saw speakers at a religious freedom roundtable, chaired by the US Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, express concern over "eroding" space for religious freedom in India. Dr Mike Ghouse, executive director, of the Center for Pluralism in Washington DC, referring to the roundtable, said in an email alert that Indian-Americans have "a moral duty to prevent India from being labeled as a Country of Particular Concern by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)".

Rejoinder: Inescapable to have Central Water Commission as strong technical body in India

By BN Navalawala*
This is with reference to Counterview Blog (December 5, 2018), "Modi govt 'shelves' water reforms report, shows 'no interest' in its recommendations", below mentioned are my comments/observations thereon:
A committee was constituted under the Chairmanship of Dr. Mihir Shah, Former Member, Planning Commission, for restructuring of Central Water Commission (CWC) and Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) for optimal development of water resources in the country in the backdrop of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

Murder of Tamil Nadu teenage Dalit girl: "Stoic silence" despite #MeToo movement

Counterview Desk
Brinelle D'souza, who is with the Centre for Health and Mental Health, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, has prepared a strong statement to protest the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rajalakshmi. "Other than a few media reports, this gruesome killing has not caught national attention despite a very vibrant #MeToo campaign currently underway", regrets D'souza.

Preventing childhood deaths: India performs worse than Bangladesh, "equals" Pakistan

By Rajiv Shah
A just-released study, “The Pneumonia and Diarrhea Progress Report 2018”, prepared by the International Vaccine Access Centre (IVAC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has identified India among 15 other countries which are still far off the mark in achieving the targets of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention of Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD).

60 ex-civil servants seek release of CAG reports on Rafale, demonetisation before 2019 polls

Counterview Desk
As many as 60 retired civil servants have asked President Ram Nath Kovind to expedite the release of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) reports on demonetisation and the Rafale deal. The letter, signed mainly by former Indian Administrative Service, Indian Foreign Service and Indian Police Service officers, regrets that the status of the audit is "unclear”. According to them, “An impression is gaining ground that CAG is deliberately delaying its audit reports on demonetisation and Rafale deal till after the May 2019 elections so as not to embarrass the present government”.

India's rewritten textbooks talk of demerits of democracy, praise Hitler, underrate Mughals

Counterview Desk
A detailed, 3,800-word review of the books rewritten under directions of the BJP rulers across India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in May 2014 has suggested that one of aims of the books is to instill a sense of doubt about India’s democratic polity among the country’s young minds. Reviewed in the prestigious US journal, “The New York Review of Books”, in its latest issue (December 6, 2018) by Alex Traub, the scrutiny insists, the effort has also been to paint Indian history from the angle of “Hindu triumphalism”, even as creating “Islamophobia”.

Govt of India "tarnishing" NGO reputation, dossier leaked selectively: Amnesty

Counterview Desk
Amnesty International India has said that a deliberate attempt is being made to tarnish its reputation by leaking a dossier, supposedly made by investigating agencies, to media without giving it access to any such information. The high profile NGO’s claim follows a Times Now report about proceedings launched by investigative agencies, including Enforcement Directorate (ED) against the rights body for “violations” of rules pertaining to overseas donations.

Four children die after poor UP Dalit, Muslim families forced to flee to forest area: PVCHR

Counterview Desk
Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR) has said that the forest department police’s crackdown, allegedly without any prior notice, on Dalit and Muslim households in Dakhin Tola, Churk Bazaar, Sonbhadra district, Uttar Pradesh, beating up “children and old people, women, and men in an inhuman way”, has led to “forced displacement, starvation and discrimination”. This has reportedly affected about 350 people.