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No compensation to family, reluctance to file FIR: Manual scavengers' death

By Arun Khote, Sanjeev Kumar* 

Recently, there have been four instances of horrifying deaths of sewer/septic tank workers in Uttar Pradesh. On 2 May, 2024, Shobran Yadav, 56, and his son Sushil Yadav, 28, died from suffocation while cleaning a sewer line in Lucknow’s Wazirganj area. In another incident on 3 May 2024, two workers Nooni Mandal, 36 and Kokan Mandal aka Tapan Mandal, 40 were killed while cleaning the septic tank in a house in Noida, Sector 26. The two workers were residents of Malda district of West Bengal and lived in the slum area of Noida Sector 9. 
Kokan Mandal lived with his wife Anita Mandal and has three school-going children in Bengal while Nooni Mandal lived with his wife Lilika Mandal and his son Sujan on rent in a jhuggi. They worked as daily wage labourers and sanitation workers informally.
On 3 May, at 7 pm the two workers were called to clean the septic tank of a private residence in Noida Sector 26. Both the workers were killed by inhaling toxic gases while cleaning the septic tank. It is to be noted, as informed by the family of the victims, that there was no one to supervise the cleaning process at the site. 
Even when both the workers got killed due to the toxic gas, for an extended period no one from the owner’s family inquired or became aware of the situation. They were rescued by the police at around 11 pm and taken to Kailash Hospital in Sector 27, Noida where they were declared dead on arrival. 
The hospital issued A Medico-Legal Case (MLC) and sent the bodies of the deceased for post-mortem on the same day. The post-mortem was conducted on 4 May but the police have not done any proceedings thereafter.
Since then, the family of the victims have not received the post mortem report from the police and neither has an FIR been filed till now. The Police Commissionerate Sector 20, Noida showed reluctance to file an FIR and claimed that the death of the sanitation workers was ‘coincidental’. 
There has been constant pressure on the victim's family for not filing an FIR and there is no evidence to show that the entitled compensation money has been received by the victim's family.
Manual scavenging is an illegal practice under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (MS Act) which bans the use of an individual to manually clean, carry, or handle human excreta in any manner. 
Kokan Mandal and Nooni Mandal were victims of manual scavenging and were made to manually clean the septic tank of a private household without any safety equipment and an FIR must be lodged under MS Act, 2013. 
Furthermore, the families of the victims are entitled to the due compensation as per the orders of the Supreme Court of India. It is also the duty of the police to provide security and shelter to the widows of the sanitation workers and ensure that they get the due compensation.
Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch (DASAM) and Justice News have issued this joint statement condemning the inaction of police and government authorities to give due compensation to the family and ensure their proper rehabilitation. 
It is tragic that even after 10 years of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 the practice of manual scavenging still exists and that there are no proper measures to ensure justice to the victims. 
We stand in strong opposition to the increasing number of deaths in sewer/septic tanks in Uttar Pradesh and demand that immediate action must be taken to prevent such deaths in the future.
---
*With Justice News and Dalit Adivasi Shakti Adhikar Manch

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