Two people climbed into the tank and fainted; Cases indicted against homeowners, truck contractors
A 29-year-old man choked and another became critical while cleaning a septic tank at a house in Injambakkam, within the confines of Neelankarai Police Station, on Sunday.
Rajan, 65, a resident of Seshadri Avenue, Injambakkam, called Anbumani, a vacuum truck owner, to clean the septic tank at his home. The truck, driven by Muthukumar, 30, and cleaner Dravida Kathiravan, 29, arrived at the site. The two removed the sewage from the tank to a depth of 10 feet and then Kathiravan climbed into the tank. Within minutes he passed out. Mr. Muthukumar, who rushed to his aid, also fell unconscious. Mr. Rajan and his neighbors took her out and rushed her to a private hospital. Kathiravan has been pronounced dead and Mr Muthukumar is in critical condition.
Police sent Kathiravan’s body to Royapettah State Hospital for an autopsy. Police instituted proceedings against Mr. Rajan and Mr. Anbumani under Section 304-A (Causing Death by Negligence) of the Indian Penal Code and the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act.
According to Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), an NGO, 55 deaths have been reported in five years since 2016, with Chennai recording the highest number of 12 deaths due to manual cleaning.
Last year, the Rajya Sabha center said that 43 people died cleaning sewers and septic tanks in Tamil Nadu in five years, the second highest number after Uttar Pradesh, where 52 deaths were reported.
Social activists said it would take political will to eliminate manual cleaning. A change took place after the ban on employment as hand eaters and their rehabilitation law came into force. Both the Supreme Court and the Supreme Courts had issued strict directives to prevent manual interception. And yet such incidents happened.
lack of awareness
A. Narayanan, director of Change India, an NGO, said all sewage companies and their trucks should be registered. No unauthorized contractor was allowed to collect wastewater and transport it to the nearest sewage treatment plant. Everything was now mechanised, eliminating the need for manual cleaning.
The government should run a major awareness campaign. The Wastewater Management Directive was drafted by the government seven years ago but was not properly implemented. It specified how to prevent workers from entering the septic tank. The government should publicize the policy sufficiently and make all stakeholders aware of it, Mr Narayanan added.