The number of people who died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the country increased by almost 62% from 68 in 2018 to 110 in 2019, according to a reply given by the Social Justice and Empowerment (SJE) Ministry to the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
SJE Minister of State Ramdas Athawale replied to the question asked by Bharatiya Janata Party MPs Anil Firojiya, Mohanbhai Kalyanjibhai Kundariya and Lallu Singh about the incidents of manual scavenging, which is banned under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
The reply said a total of 14,559 manual scavengers had been identified by Municipalities and Gram Panchayats in 13 States from 2013-2014 till January 31, 2020. Apart from that, a national survey was conducted in 194 districts in 18 States where 48,345 manual scavengers were identified till January 31, taking the total to 62,904.
While saying “there have been no reports regarding death of persons due to manual scavenging”, the Minister’s reply stated that the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis had received reports about the death of people cleaning sewers and septic tanks.
According to the Commission’s reports, 2019 saw the highest number of cases in the past five years, with 110 deaths. The reports showed that there had been 68 deaths in 2018, 93 in 2017, 48 in 2016 and 57 in 2015. These cases were reported from 18 States and Union Territories, while 13 States and UTs submitted “nil reports”.
Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Odisha, Jharkhand, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Sikkim, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Puducherry, Lakshwadeep, Meghalaya, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands submitted “nil reports” from 2015 till 2019.
The Minister said the main cause for manual scavenging were insanitary latrines that required to be cleaned by hand. This, he said, was being addressed by the Swachh Bharat Mission, through which insanitary latrines were being identified and converted to sanitary ones.