Telangana High Court on Thursday suggested that the State government not turn the issue of paying compensation to families of manual scavengers, who died while cleaning drains, as an adversarial litigation.
A bench of Chief Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice Chada Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy, hearing a PIL petition on identification and rehabilitation of manual scavengers, observed that the government should award compensation to the kith and kin of manual scavengers who lost their lives while working. It did not matter whether the workers were cleaning public or private drains, the bench said.
The PIL plea was filed by S. Jeevan Kumar of Human Rights Forum nine years ago with multiple prayers including identification of manual scavengers and measures by the government for their rehabilitation. Vasudha Nagaraj, counsel for the petitioner, contended that the Telangana government was yet to begin enumeration, identification and rehabilitation of manual scavengers.
This was mandatory as per the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act-2013. The Supreme Court too passed orders to ensure rehabilitation of manual scavengers in Safai Karmachari Andolan case.
Advocate Vasudha Nagaraj questioned the stand of the GHMC that compensation would be paid only to the families of those persons who died while clearing public drains. The State capital’s municipal body maintained that it was not liable for payment of compensation in instances reported during cleaning of private drains.
Counsel cited orders of the Supreme Court and the High Courts of Bombay, Madras and Karnataka which directed authorities to conduct survey of manual scavengers in the States. Hearing contentions of Ms. Vasudha Nagaraj, the bench noted that manual scavengers were the most underprivileged and marginalised section of society.
GHMC counsel sought time to respond to the issues raised by petitioner’s counsel. The matter was posted for September 7.