The Madras High Court has formed a 13-member special committee to come up with suggestions that would enable the authorities to eradicate manual scavenging.

The committee would also examine various aspects relating to the sewerage system in metropolitan cities and other parts of the State to remove defects in the system.

Passing further orders on a contempt petition seeking to take note of “wilful disobedience” by the authorities of a court order asking them to take steps to eradicate manual scavenging, a Division Bench comprising Justices F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla and B. Rajendran said the panel should submit its report with suggestions and recommendations to improve the system and maintain the overall environment. This should, preferably, be done within two months.

Following a writ petition filed by A. Narayanan of Virugambakkam, the High Court in November 2008 banned the entry of human beings into manholes and septic tanks in the State, except in specific circumstances. The court had asked the authorities to take measures to ensure that all forms of manual scavenging were eradicated.

In his contempt petition citing Niranjan Mardi, Secretary, Municipal Administration and Water Supply Department; and Shiv Das Meena, Chairman and Managing Director, Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) as respondents, Mr. Narayanan said they had not taken the court’s directions with the seriousness it deserved. The petitioner prayed the court to take note of the “wilful disobedience” by the authorities of the court order.

The Bench said the committee, headed by the CMWSSB Chairman, would deliberate on issues including ways to regulate or avoid throwing of solid waste into the sewage system, monitor action taken to divert illegal sewage connections given in stormwater drains, and construction of diaphragm chambers in hotels, marriage halls, cattle yards and similar facilities. It would identify equipment or devices to clean septic tanks and sewer systems in times of blockage and study the maintenance of Chennai’s sewerage and suggest improvement measures.

The contempt petition along with the main writ petition should be listed as soon as the report is submitted by the panel, the Bench said.

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Vivek NarayananJune 28, 2012