Manual scavenging is misinterpreted: Shivanna

Civic corporations and government agencies have “misinterpreted” the manual scavenging act, leading to hasty declarations of scavenging-free cities, said M. Shivanna, Chairman of National Commission for Safai Karamacharis, here on Thursday.

Reviewing the status of civic workers and implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 by the Mangalore City Corporation (MCC), Mr. Shivanna said the “non-identification” of scavengers across the State has led to “crores of rupees” in funds being “wasted”.

“While the corporation look for only those who enter manholes; they ignored to consider those who touch, clear drainages, or handle human excreta by railway tracks or in drainages as manual scavengers,” he said.

The MCC drew flak for having only four jetting and sucking machines to clear drainages when it was recommended to have at least one machine per 10,000 population. Mr. Shivanna also directed the corporation to ensure all workers were given a safety kit – comprising gum boots, medicated masks, gloves, aprons, soap and a towel. “I have also instructed the Chief Minister to start a meal scheme for civic workers, to ensure that they receive hygienic food,” he said.

Among his other directions to the corporation was to ensure outsourced workers were given the same benefits as permanent civic workers.

Lack of housing

In his representation to the Commissioner, Anil Kumar, president of the civic workers association, said housing for civic workers was an issue. Currently, the MCC only allocates quarters, which have to be given up on retirement. “With the salary given by the MCC, it is impossible to buy a plot,” he said.

Mr. Shivanna asked the civic workers here to form a housing society. “The government will provide land near the city. Six acres has been earmarked in Mysuru for the workers there,” he said.

Mayor Mahalaba Marla said civic workers were excluded from benefits of scholarships and aid to build houses, among other programmes included under the 22.75 per cent (reservation of funds for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) scheme because of the income criteria.

“We have written to the government to increase the income limit from Rs. 1 lakh currently to Rs. 3 lakh,” he said.

With the sewage lines at Bunder and other areas connected to a storm water canal, anti-malaria fogging operations involve wading through sludge and human excreta, said Monnappa Gowda, a civic worker, here on Thursday. M. Shivanna, Chairman of National Commission for Safai Karamacharis, who heard his petition, said this amounted to “manual scavenging”.

“When we are in the canals, the sewage is let into it and sometimes even on top of us,” he told the Chairman during a review meet at the Mangaluru City Corporation (MCC).

The MCC officials said the underground drainage system in Bunder was “more than 40 years old” and needed entirely to be replaced for the instances to stop.

Mr. Shivanna threatened to file cases against MCC health officials if they did not rectify the situation.