2019 records highest deaths while cleaning sewer in last 5 years

A total of 376 labourers were killed while performing the task since 2015 with last year alone accounting for 110 such deaths
Last Updated 23 February 2020, 13:11 IST

Government's regular missives to ensure prohibition of manual cleaning of sewers appear to be remaining only on paper as latest official statistics show that 2019 saw the highest number of deaths while engaged in such work in the past five years.

Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka find a place in the top-five list of ignominy even as both the Centre and state governments claim that they were taking measures to ensure that machines are used for cleaning sewers and manholes.

As per official statistics, a total of 376 labourers were killed while performing the task since 2015 with last year alone accounting for 110 such deaths, the highest in past five years. Of this, compensation has been given in 275 cases, including 200 who received the full compensation of Rs 10 lakh.

While 2015 saw 57 deaths while cleaning sewers, it declined to 48 the next year. It again rose to 93 in 2017, only to decrease to 68 in 2018.

Among the states, Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of such deaths at 63 followed by Tamil Nadu (49) and Gujarat (39). Karnataka and Haryana had 35 cases each while Delhi had 34.

The number of deaths while cleaning sewer could rise as 13 states and union territories, including Assam, Odisha and Jharkhand, have not submitted their reports to the central government.

Last December, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment had asked the Centre to direct the state governments to ask their local bodies to strictly prohibit cleaning of manholes manually. It also wanted inspections to ensure that contractors do not resort to hiring manual scavengers for the job.

"Machines should be used instead of manual scavengers for this purpose. The Department should also issue instructions to the implementing agencies to take strong punitive action against those who are responsible for employing labourers for cleaning of manholes and blacklist them," the panel had said.

The committee also came down heavily on the government for not taking enough steps to rehabilitate identified manual scavengers.

It had found that 42,302 manual scavengers were identified during a nationwide survey in 2018 but a large number of them did not get key benefits of a rehabilitation scheme for their welfare, including skill development training up to two years with a monthly stipend of Rs 3,000 or one time cash assistance of Rs 40,000.

Only 2,660 have got skill training so far while only 252 have got the benefit of credit linked back end capital subsidy up to Rs 3.25 lakh under the Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) scheme. The number of people who got the one-time cash assistance stands at 26,288.

Of the over 42,000 manual scavengers across the country, Karnataka is placed sixth with 1,754 such people after Uttar Pradesh (19,712), Maharashtra (7,378), Uttarakhand (6,033), Rajasthan (2,590) and Andhra Pradesh (1,982)

States 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 TOTAL
Uttar Pradesh 10 3 18 11 21 63
Tamil Nadu 8 10 7 9 15 49
Gujarat 7 7 7 2 16 39
Karnataka 14 9 4 1 7 35
Haryana 4 - 11 6 14 35
Delhi 2 1 13 10 8 34
TOTAL (All India) 57 48 93 68 110 376
(Published 23 February 2020, 13:11 IST)

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