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HindustanTimes Thu,24 Apr 2014

Soon, an act to make manual cleaning of sewers punishable

Nivedita Khandekar , Hindustan Times  New Delhi, July 27, 2013
First Published: 01:17 IST(27/7/2013) | Last Updated: 01:21 IST(27/7/2013)

Three months after banning manual scavenging and manual cleaning of sewers, the Delhi government plans to bring in an act to make it a punishable offence.

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On April 12 this year, Delhi became the first state to ban the inhuman practice of manual scavenging and manual cleaning of sewers.

Three daily wagers lost their lives on July 14 while cleaning sewers without safety equipment at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts. The government has given R2 lakh each to the families of three men.

Harnam Singh, chairman of the Delhi Commission for Safai Karamcharis, said, “We have sent a proposal to the legal department for vetting.” The legal provision will help in punishing the violators. “The punishment will include imprisonment,” he said.

Advertisements will be published by August 31 in all leading newspapers and on FM channels to inform and warn people about employing manual labour for cleaning of sewers.

“This will be applicable for individual homes, cleaning of septic tanks or even malls, institutional buildings and offices,” Singh said.

The decision on the social campaign was taken at a meeting of a Delhi High Court-appointed committee in connection with an ongoing case after a writ petition was filed by National Campaign for Dignity and Rights of Sewerage and Allied Workers.

The committee - Singh also heads the committee - has decided to make Delhi Police a party in the ongoing court case, which will “help in keeping a tab on violators, especially private contractors involved in sewer cleaning work”.

Hemalata Kansotia, co-convenor of the campaign, said, “It is pertinent to first fix liability of such contractors. Most of the times, we have found out that these contractors do not maintain, except for the first name of a daily wager, any other information. This makes it impossible to trace these workers in case of any untoward incident.”

Delhi Jal Board (DJB) officials said they had been conducting training programmes for sewer workers as per committee’s recommendations. 

The meeting took stock of the steps taken by various agencies involved in cleaning of sewers.

Regarding the three men who lost their lives during cleaning sewers, Singh said,  “We are also pursuing additional monetary compensation for the victims’ families. We would also ensure their children’s education does not suffer.”

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