BLAMING THE states for not implementing the legislation outlawing manual scavenging, Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot on Wednesday directed all states to submit data on the extent of the practice and the deaths caused by sewer and septic tank cleaning. He also asked the states to pay the compensation in all such cases of deaths and to prosecute the contractors as required by the law. The minister was addressing a consultative meeting with states in the wake of recent spate of deaths due to hazardous cleaning of sewer and septic tanks, especially in Delhi, which has seen 10 such deaths this year.
Pointing out that the Centre enforced The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act in December 2013, Gehlot said, “The states were given one year’s time until December 2014 to implement the Act in its entirety. To ensure that machines are used instead of people as much as possible. In cases where people are employed, states were to ensure that hazardous cleaning of sewage and septic tanks are not done until they are provided with all kinds of protective gear. But states have not done much in this regard with their own urban local agencies often flouting the laws through outsourcing of such work.”
He said while the Supreme Court has directed that a compensation of Rs 10 lakh is to be paid for each case of manual scavenger’s death since 1993, when the practice was first outlawed, most states have not made any payment while many others have paid only Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh. Moreover, only 12 states have formed the mandatory state-level monitoring committee headed by the CM while even fewer have held any meetings at all.