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INDIA: Two more sanitation workers die cleaning sewer

INDIA: Two more sanitation workers die cleaning sewer


ISSUES: Right to food; inhuman and degrading treatment; hunger, starvation, corruption; impunity; rule of law, Right to life and livelihood; right to rehabilitation and compensation


Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has learnt about the death of two sanitation workers in Hyderabad. They have died while cleaning a gutter, a practice outlawed by the Supreme Court of India. These deaths follow others – one sanitation worker in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, and three in Gujarat – that have taken place in the wake of the historic 29th March Supreme Court verdict criminalizing the practice of manual cleaning of human excreta.

CASE NARRATIVE:

The AHRC has learnt about the death of two sanitation workers, Mr. Beemulu, 23 years, and Mr. Narayana, 53 years. They died inside a drain in Rajendra Nagar, Hyderabad, this Saturday. Mr. Beemulu was trapped first. When Mr. Narayana entered the drain to help him and got trapped too. Media reports state that the workers were cleaning an 18-foot deep drain; they were trapped inside and suffocated to death due to the lack of oxygen. The owners of Imperial Residency apartments employed the two men to cleaning their sewer; one of the sewage lines had overflowed due to a blocked manhole. Media reports also note that the residents were compelled to employ private manual scavengers. Repeated complaints to the municipal authorities regarding the sewage problem remained unanswered.

The deaths occurred despite the practice of manual cleaning of human excreta, in any form and in any place, having been outlawed both by the Indian parliament and the Supreme Court of India. On 27 March 2014, the Supreme Court has imposed a categorical ban on anyone entering, or being forced to enter, manholes, unless there is an emergency. The Court clarified that even in a case of emergency, entering a drain or manhole can only be permitted with the written approval of a Chief Executive Officer and with all protective gears in place.

The Court ordered all state governments to strictly enforce the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, and to take immediate measures to eradicate manual scavenging. The verdict has also put command responsibility on the Chief Executive Officer (or equivalent post) of the locality and instituted a compensation of Rupees 10 lakhs in the case of death due to such a practice.

The death of Mr. Beemulu and Mr. Narayanan, however, exposes the criminal disdain authorities have even for the orders of the higher judiciary. Forget about being permitted or not in writing by the chief executive officer, the deceased sanitation workers were not even employed by municipal authorities and were working for private citizens. Unfortunately, this situation is not peculiar to Hyderabad or the state of Andhra Pradesh; such deaths keep occurring across the country. Though data on such deaths is hard to come by, both because of such private employment and authorities’ quest to hush up the matter, a conservative estimate by dalit rights activist S. Anand puts the toll at 22,237 deaths a year across India, with around 700 deaths occurring inside manholes.

These deaths have followed the deaths of a manual scavenger, Mr. Pavan, in Varanasi and three others in Gujarat; all of them have taken place after the Supreme Court verdict. In case of the death of Mr. Pavan, the authorities even feigned ignorance about who employed the man to do the job. The AHRC condemns the continuation of such deaths and holds the authorities responsible. The AHRC demands compensation for the families of the deceased workers and also the prosecution of the Chief Executive Officers administering areas where the deaths occurred.

SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please write to the authorities mentioned below demanding immediate end to the dehumanizing practice of manual scavenging, compensation for victim families, and prosecution of those responsible for such deaths.

To support this case, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,

INDIA: Two more sanitation workers die cleaning sewer.

Names of the Victims:
1. Mr. Beemulu, 23 years
2. Mr. Narayan, 53 years
Names of alleged perpetrators: Municipal authorities of Hyderabad
Date of Incident: 31 May, 2014

I am writing this letter to you with grave concern about the continuing deaths of sanitation workers. I have learnt about the death of two sanitation workers, Mr. Beemulu, 23 years, and Mr. Narayana, 53 years. They died inside a drain in Rajendra Nagar, Hyderabad, this Saturday. Mr. Beemulu was trapped first. When Mr. Narayana entered the drain to help him and got trapped too. Media reports state that the workers were cleaning an 18-foot deep drain; they were trapped inside and suffocated to death due to the lack of oxygen. The owners of Imperial Residency apartments employed the two men to cleaning their sewer; one of the sewage lines had overflowed due to a blocked manhole. Media reports also note that the residents were compelled to employ private manual scavengers. Repeated complaints to the municipal authorities regarding the sewage problem remained unanswered.

The deaths occurred despite the practice of manual cleaning of human excreta, in any form and in any place, having been outlawed both by the Indian parliament and the Supreme Court of India. On 27 March 2014, the Supreme Court has imposed a categorical ban on anyone entering, or being forced to enter, manholes, unless there is an emergency. The Court clarified that even in a case of emergency, entering a drain or manhole can only be permitted with the written approval of a Chief Executive Officer and with all protective gears in place.

The Court ordered all state governments to strictly enforce the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, and to take immediate measures to eradicate manual scavenging. The verdict has also put command responsibility on the Chief Executive Officer (or equivalent post) of the locality and instituted a compensation of Rupees 10 lakhs in the case of death due to such a practice.

The death of Mr. Beemulu and Mr. Narayanan, however, exposes the criminal disdain authorities have even for the orders of the higher judiciary. Forget about being permitted or not in writing by the chief executive officer, the deceased sanitation workers were not even employed by municipal authorities and were working for private citizens. Unfortunately, this situation is not peculiar to Hyderabad or the state of Andhra Pradesh; such deaths keep occurring across the country. Though data on such deaths is hard to come by, both because of such private employment and authorities’ quest to hush up the matter, a conservative estimate by dalit rights activist S. Anand puts the toll at 22,237 deaths a year across India, with around 700 deaths occurring inside manholes.

These deaths have followed the deaths of a manual scavenger, Mr. Pavan, in Varanasi and three others in Gujarat; all of them have taken place after the Supreme Court verdict. In case of the death of Mr. Pavan, the authorities even feigned ignorance about who employed the man to do the job. The AHRC condemns the continuation of such deaths and holds the authorities responsible. The AHRC demands compensation for the families of the deceased workers and also the prosecution of the Chief Executive Officers administering areas where the deaths occurred.
I, therefore, urge you to

1. Put an immediate end to the dehumanizing practice of manual scavenging, already outlawed by the Indian parliament as well as the Supreme Court of India;

2. Expedite disbursal of compensation of Rupees 10 lakhs as mandated by the Supreme Court;

3. Prosecute the Chief Executive Officer of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation for criminal dereliction of duty;

4. Identify and rehabilitate all workers engaged in any form of manual scavenging.

Sincerely,


_______

PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1 Shri Narendra Modi
Prime Minster
Government of India
Room No. 148 B, South block, New Delhi
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 230116857; 23015603

2. Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax: + 91 11 2338 4863
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in


3. Thaawar Chand Gehlot,
Minister,
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,
Government of India
Shastri Bhawan,
Dr. Rajendra Prasad Marg, New Delhi
Ph: +91 11- 23381001 and
Fax: +91 11-23014432
E-mail: min-sje@sb.nic.in

4. Chairperson,
National Commission for Safai Karamcharis
B" Wing, 4th Floor,
Lok Nayak Bhawan,
Khan Market
New Delhi 110003
INDIA
FAX: +91 24648922
Email: cp-ncsk@nic.in


5. Chairperson,
National Commission for Scheduled Castes,
Lok Nayak Bhawan, Khan Market,
New Delhi – 110003
INDIA
FAX: 91-11-24632298
Email: chairman-ncsc@nic.in


6. Shri Ekkadu Srinivasan Lakshminarasimhan
Governer,
Governor House ( Nilayam ) ,
Hyderebad,
Andhra Pradesh
INDIA
FAX: +91 40 23311260
Email governor.ap@nic.in

7. Mayor
Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation
CC Complex Tank Bund Road, Lower Tank Bund
Hyderabad 500029
INDIA
FAX: 91 40 23261262
Email: mayor@ghmc.gov.in

ends

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