A day after the two labourers died inside a manhole in Ahmedabad, the Gujarat High Court on Monday ordered the state government to submit the follow-up in the case by Tuesday. It also sought an update from the government on other cases, including compensation to the kin of the deceased in similar cases since 2016.
The state government is expected to file its report of action taken so far under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, by Tuesday. The division bench headed by Justice SR Brahmbhatt said in its order, “It appears that despite pendency of the matter and assurances to the court, the unfortunate situation still prevails under which on one pretext or the other the workmen have to risk their lives. We are at pain to note that there is absolute lack of sensitivity… else this would not have happened. It goes without saying that the follow up, as prescribed under the Act needs to be placed on record…”
The court’s order was on a 2016 public interest litigation (PIL) moved by Manav Garima Trust, a city-based NGO working for the upliftment of manual scavengers, seeking proper implementation of all the provisions of the Act in the state.
The court also directed the state that with respect to the latest incident, details “be brought forth as to who is the responsible and what are the lapses”.
On Sunday, two labourers died after they fell into a manhole near Ahmedabad, police said. The duo, Dinesh Sukhram and Sunil Bhaniyo, both 20 years old, were taking measurement for an under-construction water connection line project of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) near Vishala Circle when they allegedly fell into the 15-feet deep manhole.
They were rushed to AMC-run charitable hospital, VS Hospital, where they were declared brought dead, Vejalpur police said. “Two labourers fell into the manhole possibly after losing balance when going down to take measurement for a water connection line. We have not found any gaseous formation in the manhole, hence, we suspect they died due to injuries,” said Additional Chief Fire Officer Rajesh Bhatt said Sunday.
Sukhram’s father filed an FIR at the Vejalpur police station under sections 304 and 114 of the Indian Penal Code, the SC/ST Atrocities Act and Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scave-ngers and their Rehabilitation Act. Contractor Fariduddin, contracting agency KR Savani Company, and the AMC nodal officer were named as accused in the complaint. The FIR, however, states that the deaths were caused as the men were sent inside the manhole without any safety gear, leading to the inhalation of poisonous gases.
On September 26, a manual scavenger died at Prantij in Sabarkantha district. A representation was made to the state on October 1, also placed on the court’s record, referring to the death after getting into the gutter.
The petitioner’s advocate had submitted to the court earlier that no tangible action was taken as of October 10. An order was passed the same day by the division bench, noting, “…it is deplorable and betrays lack of required action on the part of the concerned.”