A total of 971 people lost their lives while cleaning sewers or septic tanks since 1993, the year law prohibiting employment of manual scavengers was enacted, according to the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry on Wednesday.
Replying to a question by BJP’s Syed Zafar Islam in the Rajya Sabha, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister of State Ramdas Athawale’s written response showed that Tamil Nadu accounted for 214 of the 971 “sewer deaths”, the highest in the country. Gujarat reported 156 such deaths and Uttar Pradesh 106, the data said. In 703 cases, ₹10 lakh as compensation had been paid to the families of the victims, and in 136, an amount of less than ₹10 lakh was given.
‘No death due to manual scavenging’
The Minister said no death due to manual scavenging, which is defined as the lifting of human excreta from insanitary latrines, had been reported. However, people had died “due to accidents while undertaking hazardous cleaning of sewer and septic tanks”, he stated. “Not a single insanitary latrine has been confirmed so far” through the app launched by the Ministry in 2020 for the public to report such latrines.
Just last month, six people died in accidents at a sewage treatment plant in Kondli and a sewer in Rohini in Delhi. While issuing notices to the authorities on March 31, the National Human Rights Commission said “any laxity on the part of the employer poses a serious threat to the right to life and right to health of these workers”.