Manual scavenging: Monitoring panel has had only one meeting

A city that takes pride in its technology sector has a dark underbelly: the prohibited practice of manual scavenging continues to thrive here. The death of two men in a septic tank of an eatery on Tuesday follows the death of three people who were cleaning a sewage treatment plant (STP) at HSR Layout earlier this year. So far this year, six persons may have died in manual scavenging-related incidents.

Previous cases
  • February 13, 2018: Two asphyxiate after entering a septic tank of an eatery at Marathahalli
  • February 3, 2018: A 38-year-old STP operator at an apartment complex in Whitefield dies under mysterious circumstances. Family says he was made to enter the plant, and fell fatally ill after that
  • January 7, 2018: Three asphyxiate while cleaning an STP at an apartment complex at Somasundarapalya, HSR Layout
  • March 7, 2017: Three men, who were employed by a contractor working for the BWSSB, died after entering a manhole at C.V. Raman Nagar

While it is in the extreme incidents of deaths that the spectre of manual scavenging becomes clear, the practice continues unabated in numerous pockets of the city. Who then monitors manual scavenging? No one apparently, said K.B. Obalesh, member of the Karnataka State Manual Scavenging Monitoring Committee. Though the committee, which oversees the implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, has principal secretaries as members and is chaired by the Social Welfare Minister, it has had only one meeting since its formation in December 2016.

“Despite the spate of deaths, there is still no clear date for the meeting,” said Mr. Obalesh, who believes that for prevention, the civic body has to be proactive in identifying and demolishing soak pits and unsanitary latrines, identifying contractors who are engaged in sewer cleaning, and introducing jutting systems. “If manual scavenging continues, it is because 95% of the Act has not been implemented,” he said.

Clifton Rosario, an advocate with Manthan Law, said societal apathy continues to encourage the practice. “In many cases, it is the well-educated, well-heeled that engage workers for manual scavenging. On the other hand, the civic bodies do not take action against the causes of, say manhole clogging, which leads to engagement of manual scavengers,” he said.

Officials of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis said while the issue had not been brought before them officially, they would take up the matter with the State government during the visit of chairperson Manhar Valjibhai Zala between February 20 and 24. Both BBMP and BWSSB have washed their hands off this, claiming that monitoring of manual scavenging does not come under their purview.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 4:44:06 PM |

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