Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal Monday directed the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) to figure out a plan for “migration to 100 per cent mechanisation for cleaning of sewer/drains within 15 days”. He also asked DJB to lay down, within a week, the standard operating procedure (SOP) for emergency manual cleaning. Taking cognizance of the recent sewer deaths, the L-G chaired a high-level meeting attended by CM Arvind Kejriwal, PWD minister Satyendar Jain, Water Minister Rajendra Pal Gautam and the top officials of different departments at Raj Niwas.
The L-G issued the directions “noting that these deaths are a grim portrayal of the unsafe working conditions of people engaged to keep Delhi’s sewer lines and tanks clean, often with bare hands” — a situation that he described as “unacceptable”. “The ultimate goal must be to ensure complete mechanisation of cleaning of all drains/sewers, including the narrowest of them, deploying modern methods. For this, all stakeholders must work in a prompt and coordinated manner,” said the L-G’s office.
In a statement, the L-G’s office said Baijal has “directed CEO (DJB) to study and propose a plan for migration to 100 per cent mechanisation within 15 days in coordination with chairman, NDMC, and the commissioner of the South DMC. This SOP will be applied to all, including private contractors, group housing society, malls, etc.” The SC/ST department secretary was instructed to upload notifications “clarifying the legal position on the website so that it can be in public domain for the benefit of contractors and users”.
The L-G also directed the DJB and other departments, including different civic bodies, to spread awareness about the “harmful impact on the health of such workers as well as the illegality committed by the contractors or user agencies concerned”. Baijal also stressed that the “liability of the principal employer” shouldn’t be diluted, and asked “government agencies to strictly abide by the law”.
“The employers must provide gas masks, safety harness belts, helmets and mechanised equipment as legally mandated for the hazardous work of cleaning of clogged underground sewers,” the L-G’s office said. Baijal also directed Delhi Police to take action against “contractors who violate the law”.