Tamil Nadu

‘130 out of 136 urban local bodies declared open defecation-free’

Government tells court that all insanitary latrines converted into sanitary latrines

The State government on Monday informed the Madras High Court that out of 15 municipal corporations and 121 municipalities in the State, six were yet to be declared open defecation-free places. Of the 136 urban local bodies, only 130 had so far been declared open defecation-free cities and towns.

The submission was made in a counter affidavit filed before the First Division Bench of Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad, who were seized of a batch of cases aimed at effective implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act of 2013.

The Municipal Administration and Water Supply department said so far 13,772 insanitary latrines were demolished and 2,63,372 of individual household latrines constructed under the Swachh Bharat Mission scheme. “All insanitary latrines in urban areas of the State have been demolished and converted into sanitary latrines,” it added.

The court was also told that 2,846 animators, 230 supervisors and 11 coordinators were engaged between 2016-17 and 2018-19 at a financial outlay of ₹153.71 crore to identify open defecation areas and bring about behavioural change among people by educating them about the importance of sanitation.

Zero-tolerance policy

Further, the department told the court that the government adopted a zero-tolerance policy against violation of ban imposed on manual scavenging. Yet, 21 people died due to sewer/septic tanks across the State between January 6 and November 11, 2019 and families of 19 of them were paid compensation of ₹10 lakh each.

Two victims alone were not paid compensation because they were not manual scavengers. The victims M. Sampath Kumar and his friend Narendran had gone to get the blessings of priest Santhanam Guruji at Om Sakthi Nagar in Tiruninravur near here in September last and died when they were voluntarily cleaning the blocks in a drain, it claimed.

The counter affidavit also stated that some of the other victims had died due to exposure to noxious gases even though jet rodding vehicles were used to clean the sewers. First Information Reports had been registered in all cases of sewer deaths and criminal prosecution was under way with respect to the 21 deaths, it added.

In so far as Chennai city was concerned, the Chennai Metropolitan and Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) procured 245 hydraulically operated desilting machines, 119 jet rodding machines, 29 jetting-cum-suction machines, 53 super sucker machines and 100 sewer cleaning rods, the department said.

However, advocate Srinath Sridevan, representing the Safai Karamchari Andolan, told the court that many municipalities in the State were continuing to engage contractors who were employing manual scavengers despite a specific bar under the 2013 Act and in violation of an interim order passed by the High Court in 2017. He pointed out that Villupuram and Kumbakonam municipalities have come on record before the court to state that their contractors had engaged manual scavengers. Taking serious note of his submission, the judges called for an explanation from the commissioners by April 28.

The Chief Justice also advised State Government Pleader V. Jayaprakash Narayan to make sure that the government alloted at least ₹10 crore to each district in the State for purchase of machines to clean sewers and ensure that mechanised cleaning became a way of life everywhere instead of continuing to depend upon manual labour.

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Printable version | Feb 19, 2020 3:53:16 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/130-out-of-136-urban-local-bodies-declared-open-defecation-free/article30787115.ece

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