On being asked about the deaths reported due to the practice of manual scavenging in the country, the Centre on Wednesday, July 28, informed the Parliament that no such deaths were registered in the last five years.
The Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment, in a written reply, further added that the authorities had offered rehabilitation support to the manual scavengers under the central schemes during the same time span.
It was responding to a question in the Rajya Sabha by Congress ministers Mallikarjun Kharge and Dr L Hanumanthaiah—on manual scavenging, the fatalities recorded, and the status of the rehabilitation of such workers.
Brushing Responsibilities With Technicalities?
It is important to note that the government had cited a distinction between deaths due to manual scavenging(cleaning of human excreta by hand) and the ones that occur while cleaning sewers.
However, experts have highlighted that the latter is an extension of the banned practice, reported Hindustan Times.
Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale, while responding to a similar question in March 2020, had said that no deaths were reported due to manual scavenging in the last three years. He, however, added that the state-wise reports indicate 340 people died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks during the period.
'Inhuman Not To Acknowledge Manual Scavenging Deaths': Activists
Bezwada Wilson, who heads Safai Karamchari Andolan (an NGO working towards eliminating manual scavenging), said that the government's statement was inhuman like the practice itself.
"It is a very inhuman statement by the minister in Parliament. Just like manual scavenging is an inhuman practice," Wilson told The Times Of India.
He further stated that his organisation had documented as many as 472 deaths due to manual scavenging in the past five years and at least 26 deaths while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in 2021 till now.