Delhi sewer deaths: Jal board workers demand immediate action to save sanitation workers
The Delhi Jal Board Karamchari Union has called for swift action on the part of the government to stop untrained, daily wage labourers from entering Delhi sewers to prevent any more untoward incident.
“Need quick action instead of announcements. Untrained people without any sort of protection are still entering the drains of Delhi for barely Rs 100. Nothing has changed on the ground. The government needs to act fast to prevent any more of such incidents,” Taraspal Tomar, president of the union, told Hindustan Times on Tuesday.
The statement comes in the wake of the death of 10 sanitation workers in five weeks during cleaning of the sewers in July-August 2017.
Earlier, on Friday, Delhi water minister Rajendra Gautam said the state government was looking at ways on how to empower the unorganised sector with technology and machinery. The minister said the concerned departments were also in talks with organisations like the National Safai Karamchari Development Corporation so that loans can also be provided to buy machinery to the safai karamcharis.
Last week, Delhi lieutenant governor Anil Baijal ordered full mechanisation of cleaning of sewers and drains in the Capital. Baijal also directed the Delhi Jal Board CEO and other departments, including the municipal bodies to launch a campaign to highlight the harmful impact of manual scavenging and the fact that forcing workers to clean sewer manually is illegal.
The Delhi Jal Board Karamchari Union had earlier written to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asking him to prevent the deaths in the city’s sewers by not allowing untrained workers under contractors to enter these.
“They are over 3,500 DJB employees who have been trained to work in the sewers of the city. We take all necessary precautions and over the years have been experienced enough to see and say if there is gas inside a sewer line or septic tank. We had also asked the CM to look into the staff crunch DJB is facing. In a meeting with officials last week, he has asked all executive engineers to submit details on staff strength,” Tomar said.
Manual scavenging was banned in the country in 1993. However, since 1994, more than 80 people have died in the drains and manholes of the Capital alone.
Section-7 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, clearly states that no person, local authority or any agency shall engage or employ, either directly or indirectly, any person for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank.