The zeal of the much hyped Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) does not seem to have percolated to the actual heroes and their kin who are deprived of their justified rights and continue to remain at the bottom of the social and economic pyramid in the country.
Obligated to identify and pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each to the families of those who had died doing manual scavenging since 1993, various civic bodies and other concerned agencies across the state are yet to wake up from their slumber, prompting the social justice and special assistance department to dash-off a third reminder to all the stakeholders directing immediate compliance of the apex court ruling or face consequences including court contempt proceedings for disobeying judicial orders.
In a historic verdict passed in March 2014, the Supreme Court had ordered that the families of all those who died during sewer cleaning must be identified and given Rs 10 lakh as compensation. As per the contents of the reminder issued by the joint secretary on January 8, a total 32 people in the state have died during sewer work, however, clarity eludes the status of compensation to the victims’ family. The responsibility of distributing compensation rests with the concerned official, such as the contractor, civic body, district administration or the state government.
It has come to light that those responsible for these deaths manage to brush aside the matter after granting small amounts as compensation. It has also been alleged that the police refrain from conducting impartial investigations in such cases.
The Manual Scavenging Act 2013 prohibits the manual cleaning of sewers. If at all such cleaning is required, there are 27 rules including use of special suit, oxygen cylinder, mask, gum shoes and safety belt. This apart from informing the ambulance first in case of an emergency.