The recent deaths of manual scavengers in the national capital has come under the scanner of the Delhi High Court which today sought a time-bound implementation of the procedure for cleaning sewers and septic tanks.
A bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sunil Gaur was informed by the Delhi government that the Lieutenant Governor has recently set up a committee to examine various measures for the implementation of ‘The Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavenger and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013’ and rules.
The court asked the three municipal corporations, Delhi Jal Board, Public Works Department, Delhi Cantonment Board, New Delhi Municipal Council and the divisional railway manager of Northern Railway to implement the procedure and to give a time frame within which it would be accomplished.
“You need to constitute rules and methodology,” the bench said and listed the matter for September 27.
The government’s counsel said the committee will have the mandate to prepare an action plan for cleaning of drains, sewer lines and septic tanks through mechanical means.
A report filed by the Delhi government said the committee will chalk out a road map to achieve 100 per cent mechanisation along with estimated time frame.
Its mandate would be to “prepare Standard Operating Practices (SOPs) for cleaning of sewer lines, sepctic tanks and covered drains having sewer like character. The SOPs prepared will take into account the various provisions of the Act and rules dealing with the safety, health and life insurance of the workers”.
The report said that the SoPs prepared by the committee shall be implemented by all the agencies diligently and if the work is executed through contract, the SOPs shall also be applicable to all the contractors.
The committee, which was formed on September 5, has to submit its report to the LG within a period of two weeks, it said.
The court also asked amicus curiae Sanjay Poddar and petitioner advocate Ashok Agarwal to inform it about the drawbacks of the model rules framed by the central government on the issue.
Taking a strong view of the recent deaths of manual scavengers, the high court had earlier directed the heads of all civic bodies in Delhi to explain how such activity was going on despite being prohibited under the law.
The court was informed by the amicus curiae in August that in little over a month, 10 people have died in four incidents while cleaning sewers in the national capital without any protective gear or safety measures in place.
All of them had suffocated to death due to the toxic fumes in the sewer lines.
The court was hearing of a PIL filed in 2007 for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers.
It had earlier termed as “disgraceful” the existence of manual scavenging in the city despite a law prohibiting such a practice and had said, “We are a country of poor people but not for the poor people.”
It is “ridiculous and shocking”, the court had observed when informed by the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) that one of the manual scavengers was a “graduate”.
The DSLSA, in an interim report, had said that there were manual scavengers in the national capital even after the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 came into force.
As carried in PTI on 19/9/2017