Act against sewer deaths!

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Dear Minister,

On September 8, 2018 five men died after inhaling toxic gases, while cleaning a septic tank at a residential complex in Moti Nagar, West Delhi.

On September, 16, 2018 another tragic incident occurred in Ghaziabad where a man, his son and a worker died after they entered a water tank at a makeshift pickle-making factory in Daulat Nagar area of Ghaziabad’s Loni.

On the same day, five people suffocate to death inside septic tank in Jashpur district in Chhattisgarh.

Since January 2017, one person has died every five days, on an average, while cleaning sewers and septic tanks across the country, according to data collected by the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) - the statutory body set up by the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993.

It goes without saying that an overwhelming majority of manual scavengers and sewer/sanitation workers are Dalits and this has been one of the starkest reflections of the continuance of caste based exploitation in our society. It is also reflected in the fact that while there is general outrage around many social tragedies in our country, the frequent deaths of sewer workers and septic tank cleaners does not seem to irk the general consciousness of the nation.

The same apathy reflects in our polity and governance too. The rehabilitation of manual scavengers, for instance, is supposed to be carried out under your ministry (the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment) under the ‘Self Employment for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS)’ scheme. More than four years since the present government took charge, your Ministry had not released a single rupee for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers until September 22, 2017 as per information revealed through a Right to Information application.     

It is disturbing that these deaths are occurring in a land where manual scavenging is legally banned. In India, the practice of manual scavenging is banned since 1993 under the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act 1993. Also, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 prohibits local authorities or agencies from employing a worker to clean sewers and septic tank without taking necessary action to ensure safety. However, these laws have been flouted time and again and till date the practice of manual scavenging continues unabated in India.

Dear Minister, we also would like to remind you that India, in the year 1960 ratified to the ILO Convention on Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) 111, which prohibits discrimination of people in employment on the basis of caste or social origin, however, the Indian Government has failed to abolish manual scavenging.

We demand:

The Centre for Equity Studies (CES) along with the following signatories demands that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India must take necessary actions to address this grave concern; to extend support in terms of due compensation and rehabilitation of the families of the dead; and to work towards a sincere implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 so as to eradicate manual scavenging.


You can help by supporting this petition!

Please sign our petition to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India to completely eradicate manual scavenging from India.

End Manual Scavenging Now!