Plea on manual scavenging: HC summons officer

Plea on manual scavenging: HC summons officer

 Disappointed with the State government’s apathy in eradicating manual cleaning of sewage lines and manholes, the High Court on Tuesday directed Urban Development Department Secretary, Arvind Shrivastava, to appear in person before the court. 

Hearing a petition by People’s Union for Civil Liberties, seeking directions to implement the Employment of Manual Scavengers Prohibition Act, 1993, the Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Vikramajit Sen and Justice B V Nagaratna warned that if the State failed to take steps in the matter, it would not hesitate to summon the ministers concerned. 

When the government said it had already filed an affidavit about the measures to be taken to ban manual cleaning of sewage lines, the court said, “You say you want to ban, but it is only lip service. You are not doing anything.”

The counsel for the petitioner said even the compensation to the workers, whose health had deteriorated due to working in sewage lines, had not been paid in some instances. When the petitioner’s counsel cited the recent death of a pourakarmika in Dharwad, the Bench questioned why the people affected were not compensated. 

When the court was informed that several people who died in the past due to manual scavenging were mostly from the oppressed classes, the court said even after 60 years of Independence, such communities were living in the pre-Independence era. 

“Despite reservations for such classes, their lives have not changed. They have been doing the same old job for generations,” the court said, adding the government seemed to be doing very little to improve their lives.

The government informed the court that it had procured sucking and jetter machines for mechanised cleaning of tanks and underground drainage. The matter was adjourned to March 7.

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