Thane: Following the death of two young men due to manual scavenging and hazardous cleaning in Mumbra’s Grace Square Society, Raju Prabhakar Madhve, father of one of the deceased Suraj Raju Madhve approached Bombay High Court along with Shramik Janata Sangh, a registered All India Trade Union and Shreyas Pande, youth activist seeking compensation, rehabilitation of the victim’s family and a thorough implementation of The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 which was passed by the Parliament in order to eliminate manual scavenging in the country but has had little effect on the ground reality.
Petition seeks relief for 11 other familes along with Suraj Madhve
Besides Suraj Madhve, the petition seeks relief for the families of 11 other deceased persons who died while cleaning septic tanks and sewers in the Thane district alone since 2016 and have not been compensated fully or rehabilitated.
Pande spoke on deaths by Manual Scavenging
Shreyas Pande, a social activist said, "On 29th March 2022, two sanitation workers – Hanuman Vyankati Korpakkvad (27) and Suraj Raju Madhve (22) died while carrying out hazardous cleaning in a septic tank of the Grace Square Society, a housing society at Kausa, Mumbra, Thane. In another incident earlier on 9th May 2019, three workers – Amit Puhal ( 20), Aman Badal (21) and Ajay Bumbak (24 ) died due to asphyxiation from inhaling poisonous gases while carrying out cleaning of a septic tank in the Pride Presidency Luxuria situated in Dhokali, Thane. These deaths have occurred due to the negligent and lackadaisical attitude of the authorities towards the implementation of the 2013 Act and the complete failure of the State in halting the inhuman practice of Manual Scavenging."
The petition also challenges that part of the government resolution dated 12th December, 2019 that holds private parties liable to pay compensation to the victims of hazardous cleaning. This notification has only increased the hurdle for the families to be rightfully compensated and in fact helps authorities evade their responsibility since contractors/ private parties have failed to make the payment.
It should also be noted that as per the order dated 27th March 2014, the Supreme Court had directed both the governments at the State and Centre to implement the 2013 Act, had emphasized punishing those who violated any of its provisions and had directed the immediate payment of a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to all the families of the victims who died cleaning septic tanks/ sewers since the year 1993.
The present petition prays for the following:-
1) To quash and set aside that part of the GR dated 12th December, 2019 which makes private parties liable for the payment of compensation for the death of persons while cleaning septic tanks/ sewers.
2) To pay a minimum compensation of Rs 10 lakhs along with interest to the families of 11 workers who died while cleaning septic tanks/ sewers in Thane since 2016.
3)To identify all the persons who have died in the state while engaged in hazardous cleaning of sewers/ septic tanks since 1993 within a period of 6 months and proceed to pay cash compensation to Rs 10 lakh to their families in a time bound manner.
4) To direct Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) to conduct a survey and identify the manual scavengers in its jurisdiction.
5) To direct the District Magistrate Thane to provide prompt, proper and adequate rehabilitation to the manual scavengers and their families so identified.
6)To direct the State Government to notify and constitute a Vigilance Committee for each District and Sub Division including four social workers working for the prohibition of manual scavenging and rehabilitation of manual scavengers or representing the scavenging community of whom two would be women.
7) To direct the Commissioner of Police, Thane to issue guidelines for lodging FIRS in the matter of deaths during cleaning septic tanks/ sewers to ensure that the officials of statutory bodies responsible for implementing the Act are also implicated and both civil and criminal action are taken against them.
8) To direct the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) to submit a time bound plan for surveying and subsequently ensuring the appropriate upgradation of all existing sewerage systems including sewers/ septic tanks/ gutters and nullahs within their jurisdiction within a period of 3 years, in such a manner that all cleaning can take place mechanically and the very necessity of sanitation workers entering sewers/ septic tanks/ gutters and nullahs to engage in hazardous cleaning or manual scavenging does not at all arise.
9) To direct the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) to stop, with immediate effect, engaging or employing, directly or indirectly, including by any private occupier or society, any person for the hazardous cleaning of a sewer or septic tank, unless the following conditions are complied with:
a.Permission has been granted by the Corporation by recording the specific and valid reasons for the same in writing;
b.The Employer provides the mandatory safety gear prescribed in Chapter II of Rules under the 2013 Act to the person entering the sewer/ septic tank/ gutter or nullah;
c.The Employer has conducted all the mandatory tests prescribed in Chapter II of the Rules under the 2013 Act to be carried out, prior to any person entering the sewer or septic tank;
d.The Employer has all the mandatory safety equipment and emergency services prescribed in Chapter II of the Rules under the 2013 Act, ready and available, whenever any person enters a sewer or septic tank.
10) To direct the Thane Municipal Corporation(TMC) to actively publicly propagate among all the private occupiers, housing societies, companies and contractors engaged in sanitation work, sanitation workers as well as the public at large, that manual scavenging and hazardous cleaning are prohibited under the 2013 Act and violators would be strictly liable for punishment and prosecution.
11)To direct the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) to provide an active and functional helpline service for immediate reporting of instances of hazardous cleaning and manual scavenging, providing emergency aid and assistance and prompt registration of violations and offences.
The petition has been filed and will be coming up for urgent reliefs and admission before the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court said Shreyas Pande.
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