631 manual scavengers died in 10 years, a single person not punished under Prohibition of Manual Scavenging Act

According to the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis (NCSK) data, a total of 631 people have died in India while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the last 10 years, news agency PTI reported.

The data provided by the commission in response to an RTI query on the number of deaths reported while cleaning sewers and septic tanks from 2010 to March 2020.

Tamil Nadu reported the maximum deaths among states. 122 manual scavengers died in Tamil Nadu in the last 10 years.

While Uttar Pradesh reported 85 deaths, Delhi and Karnataka each reported 63 deaths and Gujarat reported 61 deaths.

However, it may be noted that this data is based only on the information received by this Commission from States/UTs/ Print and electronic media reports etc. and actual data may vary.

The data showed The highest number of deaths were reported in 2019 at 115. In 2018, 73 such deaths were reported while in 2017 as many as 93 people died.

Manual scavenging is banned under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

Owing to their work conditions, the sewer and sanitation workers are exposed to dangerous gases such as hydrogen sulide, methane, carbon dioxide, ammonia, etc. a wide variety of microorganisms and decaying organic matter that may lead to rapid loss of consciousness even resulting in death. A worker entering the manhole is nothing but a mere euphemism of manual scavenging.

“A single person has not been punished under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act since its enactment. An Act should not be a false promise like an election manifesto, an Act should be what we should implement in an unequal society,” Bezwada Wilson, national convener of Safai Karmachari Andolan told PTI.