Despite ban, manual scavenging goes on unchecked in state

Despite ban, manual scavenging goes on unchecked in state

Though manual scavenging was banned around 25 years ago, Karnataka continues to be one of the top five states in the country where the practice still exists. As many as 19 manhole deaths have been reported in the last three years in Bengaluru.

The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 prevents hazardous manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.

According to the state government, there are around 300 scavengers in the state. However, the Safai Karamchari Commission has put the number at more than 4,000, of whom around 500 are from Bengaluru city itself. The commissioner said that Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra have the highest number of scavengers in that order and the fourth place goes to Karnataka.

Chairman, Karnataka State Safai Karamchari Commission, M R Venkatesh said, “Along with compensation, a job should be given to one of the family members ofthe victim. However, this is not being done. Will the victim’s life come back by awarding compensation and other facilities to the family?”

What the rules say
According to the 'Underground Drainage Safety Manual - 2012', only during emergency cleaning workers should be let inside manholes. The manholes should be kept open one hour before a worker goes in. The rules further state that the worker should wear boots and hand gloves mandatorily  and must be provided with an oxygen mask.

A senior official and two assistants should be present during the operation. A first-aid kit should be kept ready and a ventilating blower to supply fr­esh air into the m­an­hole should be provided. One of the pourakarmikas said that these rules are rarely followed and hence, accidents happen.
 

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