Manual scavenging: Complete eradication has to be the goal - The Tribune India

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Manual scavenging

Complete eradication has to be the goal

Manual scavenging

Photo for representational purpose only. - File photo



Manual scavenging is banned in the country, but the practice prevails in many forms. As many as 347 people have died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the last five years. Taking a grim view of the situation, the Supreme Court has called for the complete eradication of manual scavenging. That has to be the goal. The battle is about human dignity, the apex court has reminded the Centre and states. The high courts have been empowered to oversee cases related to fatalities. Government agencies have been instructed to collaborate to prevent such tragic incidents. Seeing the ground reality, that’s a tough ask. Apart from a massive infrastructure push, it requires a change in mindset.

Jetting and sucking machines are now routinely used for major clean-up work. The problem is the abysmal lack of technological aids and protective gear for cleaning sewers in lanes and gullies. Large-scale investment in procuring the latest equipment is crucial. Domestic products would need sizeable subsidy. In the absence of the mandatory use of modern tools by the staff of civic bodies and private contractors, asking workers to descend into manholes or septic tanks remains the easy option. At times, human intervention is required to unclog the drains. Without any protective gear, the risks rise manifold.

Bringing uniformity in monetary compensation across the states, the apex court has directed payment of Rs 30 lakh to the kin of those who die while cleaning sewers. Those who suffer permanent disabilities will be paid a minimum Rs 20 lakh. These are necessary steps for protecting the rights of these workers. But, as the Bench said, the important thing is to live up to the constitutional commitment of dignity for all. Manual scavenging is a blot on the nation. If this unpleasant truth is recognised, progress can be possible.  

#Supreme Court


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