We often see sewer labourers in our city who enters the sewage system to ensure the proper working of the drainage system. The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, bans anyone employing human beings in the cleaning of sewers. However, the practice continues to find takers and exist on the ground. The act does not address critical aspects of provisions of those who were liberated from manual scavenging before the law was passed in 2013.
In most cases, the workers are not given proper safety gear, helmet, oxygen mask and bodysuits, which add to their brutal atrocities.
Despite the Government’s efforts to promote the use of robots for cleaning sewers and drains, many workers are still forced to enter the drains for cleaning. In many cases, workers lose their lives.
Data collected by the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) shows that at least 50 workers have died cleaning sewers in the first six months of 2019. This data is a gross underestimate and includes figures for only eight states — Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
To give some justice to the sewer labourers Haryana Government came up with a plan. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar on Thursday, August 15, announced an insurance cover of Rs 10 lakh for sewer workers associated with government agencies in the state and also assured them to provide more safety gears.
“The government will pay for the policy, and in case of an accident resulting in loss of life, the amount will be paid to the family of the sanitation worker,” CM Khattar said.
“The scheme is only applicable to sewer workers working under or associated with the government. It will not apply to those employed by private agencies,” Khattar added.
On June 26, four workers died after inhaling poisonous gases while cleaning a septic tank in Haryana’s Rohtak. The incident occurred when the workers entered the tank to clean it. In a similar incident in May 2019, two workers died after inhaling harmful gases while cleaning a sewer tank in Sonepat.
It is unquestionably a great step by Haryana Government. We hope different states also take motivation from them and make exacting principles to guarantee the security of sewer labourers.