Manual Scavenging: Five Suffocate To Death Inside A Septic Tank In Chhatisgarh; 13 Deaths In A Week
On Sunday, five people including a woman died allegedly due to asphyxiation while they were inside a septic tank at a house in Chhattisgarh’s Jashpur district. The police said that the four men had gone inside the tank for repair work.
According to the Hindustan Times, the incident happened in Pandripani village, when two daily wage workers climbed inside the septic tank to remove the wooden logs which supported the slab of the tank. The two men did not come out of the tank, and subsequently, two others went inside the tank, who also did not return. Soon the wife of the house owner climbed inside the tank, and she too did not come out, said the Superintendent of Police Prashant Thakur.
Meanwhile, a child who was around raised the alarm and alerted the neighbouring villagers. The villagers informed the police about the incident. Later, the police rushed to the spot with rescue equipment and pulled out the five people from the tank, who were then taken to a local hospital. They were declared dead in the hospital.
According to the Scroll, one unidentified police officer told PTI that the preliminary report suggests that the deaths were due to suffocation and a detailed report would be out after proper investigation. A case has also been filed.
Manual Scavenging banned in the country
In India, the practice of manual scavenging is banned since 1993 under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act. As per this Act, the law prohibits local authorities or agencies from employing a worker to clean sewers and septic tank as well.
However, the law has been faulted time and again. In just a month’s time, this is at least the third case in which people lost their lives while cleaning septic tanks. The other two incidents happened in Ghaziabad and Delhi.
On September 8, five men aged between 18 to 30 died after inhaling toxic gases, while cleaning a septic tank at a residential complex in Moti Nagar, West Delhi. Their co-workers claimed that the men hired as housekeeping staffs, were threatened to go inside the tank; otherwise, they would lose their job. Their colleagues also claimed that no belt or mask was provided to the workers while they were going inside the tanks.
On September, 17 another incident happened in Ghaziabad where a man, his son and a worker died after they went inside a water tank at a makeshift pickle-making factory in Daulat Nagar area of Ghaziabad’s Loni.
“One person has died every five days”
According to an inter-ministerial task force report, it was recorded that more than 53,000 manual scavengers are employed in 12 states. The Report was published in June, which covered only 121 districts in 12 states including- Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Haryana.
However, Bihar, J&K, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Telangana and West Bengal are yet to participate in the survey. The survey does not include cleaning sewers and septic tanks, and data from the Railways, which is the largest employer of manual scavengers, as reported by The Indian Express.
The National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK), the statutory body has collated the number of deaths due to cleaning septic tanks. The data says that since January 1, 2017, on an average at least one person has died every five days while cleaning sewers and septic tanks across the country. The NCSK was set up by an Act of Parliament for the welfare of sanitation workers.
The Logical Indian spoke to the national convenor of the Safai Karamchari Andolan (SKA), Bezwada Wilson, who has been fighting for the sanitation workers for many years.
He said that on Tuesday, some activists would be starting a campaign against manual scavenging to increase awareness and protest against the deaths of five men in Delhi’s residential complex while cleaning the sewer last week.
“On September 25, we will be launching a mega protest in which sanitation workers and kins of the victim will participate in the rally,” he said.
“The protest is for the awareness of the people and their rights. The government has done nothing for these people. They are just getting exploited by the government. The victim’s family do not even get any financial aid,” he added.