All States directed to constitute safai karmachari commissions immediately

Government officials have been cautioned against engaging pourakarmikas in manual scavenging and warned of prosecution under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, which will come into effect on December 6, 2013.

Disclosing this to presspersons here on Sunday, M. Shivanna, chairman, National Safai Karmachari Commission, said those violating the provisions of the Act risk being jailed from one to five years, apart from a fine ranging from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 5 lakh. “Though the ban on manual scavenging exists, it has not been implemented. The new law will ensure the ban,” he said.

All local bodies will be directed to implement the provisions of the Act and ensure that pourakarmikas are provided with machines and other contraptions to carry out the drainage cleaning work, Mr. Shivanna said. “I have already written to all Chief Ministers in the country,” he said.

Taking exception to the absence of the State Safai Karmachari Commissions in various States, Mr. Shivanna said the authorities in different States have been directed to constitute the body immediately.

Recalling his visit to the Mysore railway station on Saturday, he said though the authorities had provided them with boots and gloves, not all were using them. The onus will be on officials to ensure that safety and hygiene are enforced. “We have told the Railways categorically that there should be no manual scavenging,” he said.

Though the city railway station has a flushing system that automatically drains discharge to the underground sewage system, it has to be extended to all stations, said Mr. Shivanna.

However, sources pointed out that the process of diverting discharge from the track to the pit involves release of water jet, but were occasionally being done manually by pourakarmikas.

On working conditions, Mr. Shivanna said the contractor had failed to credit the provident fund amount to the accounts of employees, though it had been deducted from their salaries. Hence, the contractor would be issued a notice in this regard. Instructions would also be issued to ensure that only standard or certified gloves, boots and other equipment are procured, he said.

Mr. Shivanna said the new law also proposes rehabilitation of those engaged in scavenging and emphasis will be on education. Those keen on entrepreneurship will be suitably trained, while loans with nominal rate of interest of 0.5 per cent would be extended so that they are brought to the mainstream, he said.

Taking exception to the Mysore City Corporation’s decision to discontinue financial reimbursement of fee for children of pourakarmikas pursuing studies, Mr. Shivanna said the local body would be instructed to revive the programme immediately.

The national commission will also recommend abrogation of contract system under which the pourakarmikas are working, and strive to extend them all amenities and service conditions that are due for any government employee.

Citing statistics, Mr. Shivanna said there were 12 lakh pourakarmikas in the country, of which 45,000 were reckoned to be in the State alone.

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