Chennai, Feb 19 : The Madras High Court today directed the Tamil Nadu government to pay due compensation to the families of three manual scavengers who died while cleaning a septic tank at a hotel in Kancheepuram district last week.
The first bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose gave the direction when A Narayanan, representing Change India NGO, made a mention of the death of three persons while performing manual scavenging at the hotel in Sriperumbudur, 50 km from here, on February 14.
To this the bench said, “They must be compensated immediately.”
Requesting the bench to take up the public interest litigation (PIL) with regard to manual scavenging, Narayanan submitted that despite awareness being created about the social evil, the employment of manual scavengers continued.
A derogatory practice, manual scavenging is confined to people belonging to lower castes and as a profession is inhuman with low pay and nearly nil safety measures provided. Manual scavenging remains a dominant practice across India, despite the passage of The Employment of Manual Scavenging and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act in 1993. The Act was again revised 20 years later in 2013, and stressed on not only eradicating manual scavenging but rehabilitating families which were dependent on manual scavenging as a profession.
With 39 deaths in the last 100 days in 2017 alone, it is a right time to ask: how effective have been the measures taken to eradicate the practice of manual scavenging?
While the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared the eradication of manual scavenging by 2019, the ground reality is starkly different, and the fulfilment of the Prime Minister’s promise looks difficult.
As per the 2011 Socio-Economic and Case Census, 1,82,505 rural households in India were dependent on manual scavenging for income. The biggest problem in addressing the issue of manual scavengers is the lack of Central and state governments to accept that the practice still exists and declare actual figures related to the number of manual scavengers.