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Manual scavenging: Instead of trying to stop practice, Govt of India 'fudging' figures

By Bezwada Wilson* 

It is unfortunate that the Government of India (GoI) has once again lied on the deaths in sewer and septic tanks. How can the government claim that there is no manual scavenging when people continue to die in sewer and septic tanks?
The Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) has objected to the data tabled by the Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale on the number of persons who died while cleaning sewer and septic tanks in 2023. The Minister has reported that 9 persons died in 2023. SKA has said that figures are grossly incorrect. This year from January 2023 till now, 58 Indian citizens have lost their lives while cleaning sewers and septic tanks, while the government has reported this figure to be just nine. SKA has placed the deaths of these 58 persons in public domain.
The Union Minister has also underreported on the data of deaths in sewer and septic tanks for the last five years to be 399. SKA says, these numbers are not factual. It reflects the apathy to such deaths of vulnerable citizens of this country.
The statement of the Minister that there is no manual scavenging in the country is false and misleading. SKA states the country cannot be declared free of manual scavenging when so many citizens are being killed in sewer and septic tanks. The casteist practice is prevalent across the country under the definitions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (PEMSR) Act, 2013. SKA is demanding fresh survey of manual scavengers to eliminate this atrocity.
Bezwada Wilson
The demand of SKA is that Union Government should present correct facts in front of the nation regarding deaths happening in sewers and septic tanks. It should also tell, what has been done so far to prevent such incidents.
The Supreme Court of India, in its order in 2014, has directed to give a compensation of Rs 10 Lakhs for such deaths. 1,315 deaths happened after the SC order and the families of only 266 persons who were killed in sewer and septic tanks have received this compensation. It means that, despite the Supreme Court Judgment, almost 80% victim families have not been given the mandatory compensation.
Since 11th May 2022, SKA has been running a nationwide campaign #Stop KillingUs against the killings in sewers and septic tanks. The campaign has completed 442 days of daily protests across the country. But ironically, instead of trying to stop such killings and making this country free from manual scavenging, the government is putting more efforts on fudging the facts. This is highly deplorable.
*National convenor, Safai Karmachari Andolan



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