By the way: Swachh Bharat, and the price of a sewer man’s life
How do you ensure a Swachh Bharat? Simply put, how do you clean our great nation? By ensuring that you hold up a broom with a handle that makes it taller than you. By gathering some leaves, preferably dry, and posing as if you’d continue the clean-up even after the camerapersons leave. And by appearing on fancy posters, giant hoardings, and even movie-theatre screens before the show actually begins, waving your right hand’s index finger, proclaiming that it’s our duty to put that dreaded toffee wrapper in the nearest garbage bin, which is oh-so-easy to find. And that’s that.
The death of three sewer-cleaning men in Chandigarh has yet again shown how our rulers — political as well as bureaucratic — treat the people who actually do the cleaning. Poisoned by toxic gases that form in rotting enclosed spaces like gutters and water tanks, the three were inside a several feet deep manhole, without any gas masks or even a rope to pull and signal if they were in trouble. All three have left behind wailing wives and young children who cannot yet comprehend the tragedy. One child believed his mother had gone to get her father back from work, while she was actually crying her eyes out at the police station.
The story is all too sad, and sadly all too familiar. Even in August last year, UT public health department’s worker Satbir Singh had died of the same reason.
Many would conveniently see it as God’s will and sleep a sound, spiritually inclined sleep. There are the slightly more sensitive others, who’d lose a bit of sleep, but feel helpless in the face of our pathetic, apathetic rulers.
And then there are the rulers themselves, who promise the moon; later announce compensation as and when needed, and even shed tears in rare moments when they are in touch with their softer sensibilities, if any.
In the latest case, however, there is an added alibi. The municipal corporation had outsourced the work to a contractor, who had further hired these men for `400 a day. Thus, MC officials insist, they aren’t directly responsible. That aside, compulsory safety equipment is seldom insisted upon even by the MC or the UT administration for its own workers. Even after the August case, the administration had claimed that all field workers have been given safety equipment. An inquiry was marked too, but little changed.
There is still no group insurance policy for workers even in the fire department, though it was promised last year after a blaze in Sector 17 killed two firemen. In death, the firemen at least got to be heroes. Cleaning filth, however, is no hero’s job.
On safety gear, the workers’ union says the masks provided by the civic bodies are not of good quality, though it has never held a strike or protest over it. The administration simply says the workers choose not to wear the equipment. Conveniently, enforcement of safety rules is forgotten.
Why is it that supervisors are either nowhere to be found or simply do not ensure that the sewer men wear lifesaving masks before descending into potential death traps? Did anyone in the MC check whether or not the contractor was following the rules, or was he to do as he pleased, only because he’d won the tender?
And, if the workers are to be blamed, does the same logic apply to rules on the road? Let’s then assume that all of us are to be responsible for our own safety, and the authorities exist only to announce compensation once in a while; the police be damned.
But, you see, in the real world that we inhabit, discipline is seldom selfimposed. I’ve written this before, and will repeat it today for its importance — institutional responsibility is routinely reduced to individual duty in our country. Even Swachh Bharat is a mere slogan, only a means to rid the middle class of its guilt, if there’s nothing done for those who do the dirty job on the ground and beneath.
As for the three workers, while the contractor had put a price tag of Rs 400 a day on their lives, the mayor was kind enough to raise it to `2 lakh, as compensation, now that they’re dead actually.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee on Wednesday decided to display the portrait of slain Babbar Khalsa International militant Balwinder Singh Jatana — who in 1990 had killed government officials supervising the construction of disputed Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) canal — at the Central Sikh Museum in Golden Temple complex, days after singer Sidhu Moose Wala glorified Jatana in his posthumously released song 'SYL'.
Former Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy on Wednesday listed '16 family dynasties' in the Karnataka unit of the BJP aKumaraswamy'she hit out at the saffron party for repeatedly calling the JD(S) a dynastic party. Kumaraswamy's outburst was against the repeated accusation of the BJP of calling JD(S) a dynastic party. The JD(S) leader lashed out against the BJP today for calling him a 'lucky dip CM' in a set of tweets.
Ninety per cent of students at the Jawaharlal Nehru University are apolitical and only 10 per cent are "troublemakers" who think they can build their political careers at the varsity, Vice Chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit said on Wednesday. The JNU is the graveyard of political careers. You know last time what happened, all who did (such) politics are in jail," Pandit said. Kanhaiya Kumar is now in the Congress party.
A 42-year-old woman was allegedly beaten up and forced to carry her husband on shoulders in Khargone district for allegedly leaving her husband and staying with her uncle, police said on Wednesday. This is the second such incident reported from Madhya Pradesh in the past two days when a tribal woman was harassed for leaving her husband's house. He came to the village in Khargone and beat up her uncle.
Mumbai A man from Uttar Pradesh has been arrested for allegedly hacking a city woman's Instagram account days before her wedding and announcing that she was going to run away before the wedding. The woman, a resident of Goregaon east, was engaged in May and got married last month. The police officers then learnt that the number from which the woman's Instagram page was hacked was being used in Uttar Pradesh.