64 died cleaning sewers in Delhi, says panel; govt counters claim
The National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) Tuesday said 64 people have died while cleaning sewers in Delhi since 1993, with 38 such deaths taking place over the last two years.
Delhi’s social welfare minister Rajendra Pal Gautam, however, said the deaths took place in septic tanks of malls and high-rises which are inaccessible to sewer cleaning machines of the Delhi Jal Board (DJB).
Addressing a press conference, NCSK chairman Manhar Valjibhai Zala, also a former BJP MLA from Gujarat, claimed that the Delhi government has not been implementing the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, and was sending a wrong message to the rest of the country. The presser soon turned into a heated argument between minister Gautam and NCSK members, with the former criticising the BJP and the latter blaming the AAP government.
“The AAP government has put an end to manual scavenging and is exploring alternative ways to clean septic tanks in malls and high-rises. The issue should not be politicised and everyone should join hands to put an end to the abominable practise,” Gautam said, minutes before he walked out of the conference.
NCSK member Gangaram Ghosre claimed that the Delhi government had promised to employ manual scavengers to operate 200 sewer cleaning machines procured last year, but only 38 have got these jobs.
“Of the 64 people who died while cleaning sewers, the state government has given compensation of ₹10 lakh each to 46 families. The panel has asked the Delhi administration to provide the compensation to the remaining families within a week,” he said.
Zala and other members of the NCSK also targeted the Delhi government over non-implementation of the Centre’s Ayushman Bharat scheme in the capital.
To this, Gautam said, “Delhi has a better scheme than Ayushman Bharat which cannot be implemented here since the average income of Delhiites is higher than those in other states.”