The death of two sewermen Sonu and Mehar Chand, who went down the manhole for cleaning a sewerline in Nirankari Mohalla on Friday, once again brings to fore the shortage of the safety kits for these workers. In violation of the law - the latest being the Prohibition of Manual Scavenging Act, 2013 - against ‘hazardous cleaning’, officials of the Ludhiana municipal corporation continue to send sewermen - without wearing safety kits into a manhole. More often than not, the workers suffocate to death.
It is not as if employees do not protest, they do, but the officers refuse to invest in safety kits and provide it to the workers who clean up the muck in the manhole.
20 complaints daily
In all the four zones A, B, C and D of the MC, there are only 21 safety kits for more than 1,600 sewermen. If this was not bad enough, the president of municipal karamchari dal Laxman Dravid claimed that each zone had only two operational safety kits that were not sufficient for a large number of employees.
“Sometimes 20 complaints of choked sewers are reported at each zone daily. As safety kits are not available with all the sewermen who go to inspect the sewerlane, there is a need to purchase more safety kits. At least, 10 operational safety kits should be available at each Zone of the MC,” said Dravid, who is also the chief sanitary inspector at MC.
Each entry into manhole is a risk
A contractual sewer man on requesting anonymity said, “Most times, we are instructed to enter the manholes without safety kits. We follow the order, but risk our lives. We suffer from various health problems, including skin infections, when we enter manholes without gear.”
MC commissioner Ghanshyam Thori said, “The sewermen’s union has been told no one should get into the manhole without a safety kit. If they are forced to do so, the matter should be referred to the additional commissioner or commissioner.”
He added that 21 kits were available and more would be purchased if the operations and maintenance cell puts up its requirement. The use of existing kits needs to be done first.”
What is in the Rs 25,000 gear
A standard safety kit in India costs around Rs 25,000. It includes:
2) Gum boots
4) Oxygen cylinders
5) Safety belt, harness and overalls
774 Regular sewermen - Salary paid according to service but is around Rs 20,000 and more
859 Contractual sewermen - As per the rates, they are currently paid around Rs 7,600 per month