In the past five years, more than 340 people have died cleaning sewers and septic tanks. This is evident from the cases reported by states and union territories up to December last year.
Uttar Pradesh has reported a maximum number of cases with 52 deaths, followed by Tamil Nadu (43), Delhi (36), Maharashtra (34) and 31 each in Gujarat and Haryana, The Times of India reported.
In a written answer to a question, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale in Lok Sabha shared the numbers. Other states such as Karnataka reported 24 deaths from cleaning septic tanks, followed by Rajasthan (18), Punjab (17), Andhra Pradesh (16), West Bengal (13) and Bihar (8).
Chhattisgarh reported only one case, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Tripura and Goa (two each), Chandigarh and Kerala (three each), and four cases in Telangana.
The employer who concludes the contract for the cleaning of septic tanks / sewers is obliged to provide the workers with the safety equipment and to take the necessary precautions, as described in the rules under “Prohibition of employment as manual scavengers and their rehabilitation rules, 2013” required.
In 2014 the Supreme Court of India banned anyone from entering septic tanks for cleaning because they contain large amounts of toxic gases. According to central government regulations, entering the septic tank is only permitted in emergencies with appropriate safety equipment.
In consultation with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, a national policy for a “Mechanized Sanitation Ecosystem” has been formulated, which provides for the appointment of a sanitation authority in each district, including response units in each municipality.
The minister also said that a program called “Swachhata Udyami Yojana” is being implemented by the Safai Karmacharis National Finance and Development Corporation.
Under this scheme, loans are granted to manual scavengers, Safai Karamcharis dealing with hazardous cleaning, and their relatives to purchase mechanized equipment up to £ 5 with a 50 percent subsidy.
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