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The Hindu (06/03/2019): Unpaid pourakarmikas turn manual scavengers

The illegal practice of manual scavenging is Bengaluru’s dirty little secret hidden behind the façade of posh apartment complexes, glass buildings and tech parks. The death of a daily wage worker while he was physically cleaning a sewage pit at a school in Begur on March 2 brings this problem back into the limelight.

Barely 70 km away, however, in Tumakuru district, the practice — banned under The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 — is more widespread. Many pourakarmikas who have lost their jobs and those who have not been paid for months are working as manual scavengers to eke out a living. Workers hired by gram panchayats haven’t received their wages for 10 months, while those contracted by urban local bodies have not been paid for two months.

Only urban local bodies in the district have one or two sewer jetting machines. This results in a demand for manual labourers at the rural level. More often than not, labourers are not provided with safety equipment. “I am paid ₹700 if I clean a soak pit, hence I work as a manual scavenger. I don’t have a choice as I have to feed my children,” said Maranna, a pourakarmika of Pavagada taluk.

The minimum wage for pourakarmikas across Karnataka is ₹541 per day. If a pourakarmika takes four days off in a month, they get ₹14,066 (i.e., 541×26 days) at the end of it. In most gram panchayats however, they are paid only ₹3,000 to ₹6,000 a month. There is no uniformity in wages and often, the pourakarmikas are not paid every month, as panchayat officials cite lack of funds. In most urban local bodies, minimum wages are paid. But this has not been the case for the past two months.

Another pourakarmika, Subhadramma, who works in the same taluk, said that most of the sewage pipes in Pavagada are connected to the drainage. “Men clean the drains without any safety gear and place the waste on the side of the road. We women fill metal bowls with night soil and carry it on our heads to load it onto tractors,” she said.

Allegations denied
When contacted, officials denied these allegations. Siddagangaiah, a member of the Madhugiri sub-divisional Manual Scavenging Vigilance Committee said that officers hesitate to show that their area has manual scavengers fearing legal issues. “There is manual scavenging in all the villages of the 10 taluks of Tumakuru district,” said Mr. Siddagangaiah.

K.B. Obalesh, a member of Karnataka State Manual Scavenging Monitoring Committee, pegged the number of manual scavengers in the district at 3,375 which he estimated could be the highest in any district across Karnataka.

Most gram panchayats, citing lack of funds, allegedly do not pay the minimum wages to pourakarmikas per month, as specified by the State government. “Many have also taken up manual scavenging after they lost their jobs in the direct recruitment process,” Mr. Obalesh added.

Stringent action
Jagadish Hiremani, member of the National Commission for Safai Karmacharis, said he had told officers to take stringent action against those who hire pourakarmikas to clean soak pits.

“I have also directed the Deputy Commissioner to pay all their pending salaries, issue payslips and conduct a master health check-up once in three months,” he said.

Link to Original article:

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/unpaid-pourakarmikas-turn-manual-scavengers/article26441518.ece

Status of Rehabilitation of Identified Manual Scavengers in Karnataka (2019)

Manual Scavenging is the practice of handling undecomposed human waste (urine and excreta) which involves human contact with it. As the nature of sanitation system has changed over years, the nature of the practice of manual scavenging has undergone change as well. Earlier, manual scavenging meant carrying of night soil in baskets but as flush toilets were introduced, the need arose for cleaning drains and pits/chambers into which these toilets discharge the waste. As sewer lines and underground drainage system (UGD) came into existence, workers were employed to clear blockages by getting down into manholes. Most recently, because of concern for lakes in Bengaluru, Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs) have been made mandatory for large apartment complexes. When these STPs malfunction, workers are hired to manually clean and repair the STPs. In Karnataka, as in the rest of the country, all the old and newer forms of manual scavenging co-exist today. One aspect of the practice of manual scavenging that has remain unchanged is its caste-based nature. Across India, those who are engaged in this work belong to specific castes. In Karnataka, most of the persons engaged in this practice belong to Madiga community.

After the complete failure of The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 to make a dent in the practice of manual scavenging, the Parliament of India passed in 2013, The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (PEMSR) Act . The preamble of the Act acknowledges the existing reality

“AND WHEREAS the dehumanising practice of manual scavenging, arising from the continuing existence of insanitary latrines and a highly iniquitous caste system, still persists in various parts of the country, and the existing laws have not proved adequate in eliminating the twin evils of insanitary latrines and manual scavenging;

AND WHEREAS it is necessary to correct the historical injustice and indignity suffered
by the manual scavengers, and to rehabilitate them to a life of dignity.”

Thus apart from preventing and prohibiting the employment of persons as manual scavengers, identifying those who had been doing this work and rehabilitating them ‘to a life of dignity’ was the central aim of the new legislation. Dignity, which anywhere else one would be guaranteed just by the fact of being human, had to be first conferred in India by its Constitution. And in the case of manual scavengers, it would seem that even that wasn’t enough since in 2013, 63 years after the Constitution came into being, the Parliament had to enact a second legislation to fulfill the promise of dignity to those working as manual scavengers. How successfully has the government implemented the rehabilitative aspects of this Act in Karnataka?

Rehabilitation of Identified Manual Scavengers

Sec 11 and 12 of the 2013 Act places the responsibility of identification of persons working as manual scavengers on the local bodies in urban and rural areas respectively, under the overall direction of the Deputy Commissioner (District Collector). As part of the Supreme Court case Safai Karmachari Andolan & Ors. vs. Union of India & Ors. (WRIT PETITION (Civil) NO. 583 OF 2003), most of the local bodies had submitted affidavits stating that there were no workers employed as manual scavengers in their jurisdiction. The patent falsehood of this assertion was revealed by the Census 2011 figures which showed that Karnataka has close to one lakh insanitary latrines. So if there were no manual scavengers, who were cleaning them? Subsequently, Socio-Economic Caste Census showed that in rural Karnataka alone, there were more than 15,000 manual scavengers. In face of these facts, Karnataka government conducted surveys in urban areas in 2013 and in rural areas in 2016. Through these surveys, 302 persons were identified as manual scavengers in urban areas and 474 persons in rural areas. The fact that this was a gross underestimation was apparent to everyone including the administration but it continued with the fiction that 774 manual scavengers were cleaning 1 lakh insanitary latrines. A survey conducted in 2018 by National Safaikarmachari Finance and Development Corporation in 6 districts of Karnataka has identified another 1744 persons as manual scavengers. All these identified persons and their families are required to be rehabilitated in accordance with Sec 13 of the 2013 Act, which provides for:-

  1. One-time cash assistance with in a month of identification;
  2. Educational Scholarship to children;
  3. Residential plot and financial assistance for house construction;
  4. Training in livelihood skill to the worker or any one adult family member along with stipend of Rs 3000/- per month during the period of training;
  5. Subsidy and Concessional Loan to the worker or any one adult family member to take up alternative occupation.

Part (1), (3) and (4) of these rehabilitative measures as prescribed by the Act, have been operationalized through the Self-Employment Scheme for the Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) as revised on 02.12.2013 in view of the PEMSR Act coming into force on 06.12.2013. Part (2) of the rehabilitation measures has been operationalized through Pre-Matric Scholarship for Children of Those Engaged in Occupations Involving Cleaning and Prone to Health Hazards. Part (3) of the rehabilitation package hasn’t been operationalized through any specific scheme but as part of Central Housing schemes like Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and State Housing Schemes like Devaraj Urs Housing Scheme or Dr. Ambedkar Housing Scheme, families of workers identified as manual scavengers can be given priority.

Status of the Rehabilitation Process in Karnataka

Since the process of rehabilitation of those identified as part of the survey conducted by National Safaikarmachari Finance and Development Corporation in 2018 is yet to begin, we provide the status of the rehabilitation process for the 302 persons identified in 2013 in urban Karnataka and 474 identified in 2016 in rural areas of Karnataka only . Lets begin with provisioning of the housing first. In Karnataka, none of the local bodies have taken steps towards providing housing to the families of those identified as manual scavengers. The same situation prevails when it comes to provisioning of educational scholarships to children of those identified as manual scavengers. Data obtained through RTI from NSKFDC show that the Scheme for Pre-Matric Scholarship for Children of Those Engaged in Occupations Involving Cleaning and Prone to Health Hazards has not been operationalized in Karnataka as yet. The status of the other three components of the rehabilitation process comprising the SRMS scheme is shown in Table 1 below. Of the identified 776 persons, details of only 732 persons has been provided to NSKFDC for provision of One-time Cash Assistance (OTCA), Skill training and Self-Employment Capital Subsidy Loans. Even after 2-5 years of identification, 73 out of these 712 eligible persons have not been provided OTCA i.e. 12% of the total number of identified persons are yet to begin the process of rehabilitation. The progress in terms of provision of skills development training and capital subsidy loans is even more deplorable as shown in Table 1: only 159 identified persons (21.8%) have been provided skill development training, all of them from urban areas. None of the identified persons in rural areas have been provided skill-development training. Similarly, only 190 persons (64%) have been provided capital subsidy loans, the average value of the loans being Rs. 78,000. Effectively, the rehabilitation process in rural areas has not taken off at all beyond the provision of OTCA.

AreasNo. of Manual Scavengers whose details UploadedNot to be provided One-Time Case Assistance (OTCA) as per norm of one MS per familyProvided OTCA
(No. of MS)
No. of Beneficiaries Completed Skill Development TrainingSelf Employment: Capital Subsidy Released (No. of Beneficiaries)Self Employment: Amount of Capital Subsidy released
(Rs. Lakhs)
Total73220639 (88.8%)159 (21.8%)190 (26.0%)148.63
Urban297NA254 (86.9%)159 (53.5%)190 (63.9%)NA
Rural435NA385 (91.6%)0 (0.00%)0 (0.00%)NA

Beyond the numbers, the litmus test for an effective rehabilitation is if it has been able to facilitate a sustainable transition towards alternative income-generating occupation away from manual scavenging work. This is reflected in the design of the SRMS scheme. The purpose behind providing one-time-cash-assistance is to make up for the disruption in income from discontinuance of the manual scavenging work. The implementing authority is then required to quickly ascertain from the family of the identified person their choice of alternative occupation, nature of skill development training required and the capital subsidy loan needed. While the identified person or any other adult family member undergoes training a stipend of Rs 3000 per month should be provided and the capital subsidy loan should be arranged to enable the family to transition into the new livelihood. During and after this period also, if any programmatic assistance is required, the same should be provided to the family.

In not a single instance of rehabilitation examined by us, has this ideal process been followed. The implementation of the SRMS scheme in the state has been marred by large instances of incomplete/stalled rehabilitation process and the delays between each successive steps. As a result, there is a wide variance in the observed outcomes: while a large percentage of those having received OTCA still continue to make a living from manual scavenging, there are instances of people having used just the OTCA money to buy livestock, or having invested the money in street vending etc. Several of the families who have received the capital subsidy loans complain that while they had proposed projects requiring 1 to 4 lakhs for buying for example sewing machine, or setting-up a computer center or buying a taxi or an auto, officials only sanctioned loans of 20-30k for street vending. The Dr. B R Ambedkar Development Corporation was the State Nodal/Channelizing Agency (SNA/SCA) for SRMS till Jan 2018 after which the newly created Safaikarmachari Development Corporation was appointed as the SNA/SCA. The process of rehabilitation which was progressing in fits and starts under Dr. B R Ambedkar Development Corporation has now completely stalled under Safaikarmachari Development Corporation even as the funds allocated for the rehabilitation of identified workers sits in bank accounts. What is apparent is the apathy and criminal negligence of officials at all levels: local body CEOs and EOs; District Social Welfare Department Officials; Officials of Safaikarmachari Development Corporation, the state nodal agency for SRMS implementation; and the Social Welfare Department Secretariat officials. Meanwhile, for Govindappa and Oblappa whose stories are narrated below, death came before rehabilitation did.

Case Studies: Death Before Rehabilitation

1. Late Govindappa (56 years), Laxmisagara Village, Beglihosahalli GP, Kolar Taluka, Kolar District, Caste: Bhovi (SC)

Govindappa was 56 years old when he breathed his last on 20th Dec 2018. He died of kidney failure caused by prolonged and persistently high blood sugar levels. The doctors at a private hospital in Kolar town had asked for 6 Lakhs for kidney replacement operation, money which they didn’t have, says his wife Narayanamma (in picture). They had already spent 6 lakhs on his illness in the last one year, half of which was borrowed @ 3% monthly interest rate from a dominant caste money-lender, and has to be paid back now. Govindappa belongs to Bhovi caste included in the Scheduled Caste list in Karnataka. He used to clean latrine pits and tanks to earn his livelihood. This was not his traditional occupation though. His father worked as stone breaker which is the traditional occupation of the community in the region. Govindappa inherited 1 acre of unirrigated land which provided some ragi for domestic consumption but no income. To make ends meet, Govindappa had to take to this occupation.

Narayanamma, wife of late Govindappa, with a photo of her deceased husband in front of her house

As per 2011 Census, 88% of latrines in Beglihosahalli are connected to septic tanks while around 11 percent latrines are pit latrines. In a month he would be called to 8-10 houses for cleaning and emptying of pits for which he would be paid anywhere between Rs 200-300 making on an average Rs 2000-3000 per month. He was identified as a manual scavenger in March 2016 as part of a state-wide survey conducted by Rural Development and Panchayathi Raj Department and was promised rehabilitation as per Sec 13 of the PEMSR Act. The One-time Cash Assistance which should have been provided to him within a month of identification was provided to him on January 2018, 22 months (almost two years) later. By then, Govindappa was already battling with uncontrolled blood sugar levels. The OTCA was used to pay for the health expenses. He is survived by 4 sons, oldest son of age 21 years and youngest of 16 years age. Narayanamma suspects that two of her sons may also be going at night to clean pit latrines . No one from the Gram Panchayat or the Social Welfare Department contacted them about what the family would want to do as an alternative occupation, neither when Govindappa was alive, nor after his death. Narayannamma wants to set-up a grocery shop in the village and buy some cows to earn some income by selling milk. She estimates that she would need a loan of Rs 2 lakhs for these. While she has a site in the village, she wants to build a pucca house on it and needs financial assistance. Provision of these rehabilitation measures is vital to ensure that Govindappa’s family doesn’t continue in the occupation of manual scavenging. Because of their failure to implement these measures in a timely manner, the panchayath officials, officials from Social Welfare Department and from Safaikarmachari Development Corporation are guilty of perpetuating the practice of manual scavenging.

2. Late Oblappa (82 years), Kyalanuru Village, Kyalanuru GP, Kolar Taluka, Kolar District

Obalappa (82), now deceased

Oblappa (82 years at the time of death) belonged to a landless Adi-Karnataka (Madiga) family and spent his life carrying night soil and cleaning pits. His father did the same. Manual scavenging was the traditional occupation for Oblappa’s family. Kyalanuru Panchayat, where Oblappa worked has a large number of pit latrines (70% as per Census 2011), and several of them were ‘serviced’ by Oblappa till he couldn’t work anymore. In 2016, when he was registered as a manual scavengers, he thought he would be able to build a pucca house for his family and set-up some small business for his two sons who do coolie work in the sericulture farms in and around the village. He waited and waited but the One-time cash assistance that was promised to him never came. He was told to get a bank account and an Aadhar number if he wants to get the OTCA. He could hardly walk but he made several trips to open a bank account and an Aadhar number but even after several attempts to provide these details to the Social Welfare Department, they were never forwarded to NSKFDC for processing of the payment. Oblappa was older than this nation and its Constitution. The life of dignity which the independence movement promised, which the Constitution of India guaranteed and which the Parliament decreed through the PEMSR 2013, 66 years after independence, bypassed him.

Way Forward

In the FY 2015-16, the Government of Karnataka had set-up the Safaikarmachari Development Corporation to specifically cater to the needs of the safaikarmacharis. The need for a separate corporation was felt because the existing Dr. B R Ambedkar Development Corporation was unable to adequately serve the needs of the community. But since the establishment of the new corporation, the process of rehabilitation of identified manual scavengers in Karnataka has completely stalled. No new person has been provided any rehabilitation since the Safaikarmachari Development Corporation was made the nodal agency for the SRMS scheme. Meanwhile, several of those identified as manual scavengers, especially in rural areas continue in the same occupation or die waiting like Govindappa and Obalappa.

 

Case Report (02/03/2019): Death of a Worker in a Septic Tank of a Private School at Beguru in Bengaluru

On 02.03.2019, the administration of Jai Hind International School located near 11th Main, Hongasandra on Beguru Main Road in Bengaluru, reportedly engaged Manu (25), belonging to Lingayat community, for manually cleaning a septic tank/chamber into which the sewage from the toilets in the school empty out. Engaging any person for manual cleaning of septic tanks, which amounts to manual scavenging, is expressly prohibited by the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (PRMSR) Act 2013. Sec 2(d)(e) of the PEMSR Act defines hazardous cleaning as

d) “hazardous cleaning” by an employee, in relation to a sewer or septic tank, means its manual cleaning by such employee without the employer fulfilling his obligations to provide protective gear and other cleaning devices and ensuring observance of safety precautions, as may be prescribed or provided in any other law, for the time being in force or rules made thereunder;

Section 7 of the Act expressly prohibits manual cleaning of septic tanks and Sec 9 makes violations of this prohibition punishable offence:-

7. No person, local authority or any agency shall, from such date as the State Government may notify, which shall not be later than one year from the date of commencement of this Act, engage or employ, either directly or indirectly, any person for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank;

9. Whoever contravenes the provisions of section 7 shall for the first contravention be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees or with both, and for any subsequent contravention with imprisonment which may extend to five years or with fine which may extend to five lakh rupees, or with both.

Sec 2(d) imposes obligations on the employer to provide protective and safety equipment to workers and to take precautions before, during and after any person is engaged in cleaning septic tanks. These obligations have been defined in Chapter II of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules, 2013 encompassing Rules 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8. But the private school which is affiliated with ICSE/IGCSE and claims to be an ‘International’ school providing facilities including a ‘swimming pool’, completely failed in discharging these obligations. In fact the BBMP Bomanahalli Zonal Office is just 1.5 kms away from the school, and the administration could have requested the services of a Jetting Machine, but the administration of the private school didn’t think twice before sending a person down a sewage pit.

Manu was not provided any safety equipment by the administration of the school and was assigned to clean the chamber without any supervision. When he fell into the pit, no body else was present at the spot. The pit was just 5 ft deep, and presence of any other person could have saved him. Only after several minutes of having fallen in the pit did somebody notice him and pull him out. By the time he was rushed to hospital, he had already died due to asphyxiation.

Sewage Pit which that was being emptied by Manu when he fell in

Manu came from the Lingayat community and is survived by his wife Nandini (22) who belongs to Adi-dravida (SC) community. Nadini says that their inter-caste marriage was never accepted by Manu’s mother and that is why they were living in a separate rented house in Hongasandra, just behind the school. Manu used to work as a casual labourer. They have a 4.5 year-old daughter.

Ms. Nandini, wife of late Ms. Manu, with their 4-yr old daughter

Based on a complaint filed by Ms. Nandini at the Beguru Police Station, a case has been registered under Sec 9 of PEMSR Act 2013 and Sec 304A of Indian Penal Code. Three people of the administration of Jai Hind International School, namely Mr. Raghavan (owner), Ms. Saroja (Principal) and Mr. Kishore (Co-ordinator) have been arrested based on the complaint. While Ms. Saroja was granted bail on 04.03.2019, the other two accused were sent into judicial custody.

Clearly this is a case where death has occurred not due to negligence but due to a conscious act on the part of the accused persons who with deliberate knowledge that it is illegal and dangerous to allow a person to clean the pit, has willfully made the deceased person get into the pit without any safety equipment endangering his life and finally causing the death of the deceased and hence the correct provision of law to be invoked is Sec 304 Part II and Sec 338 of IPC, 1860, as warranted by the facts of the case.

IPC Sec 304 Part II
Whoever commits culpable homicide not amounting to murder, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, or with fine, or with both, if the act is done with the knowledge that it is likely to cause death, but without any intention to cause death, or to cause such bodily injury as is likely to cause death.

IPC Sec 338
Causing grievous hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others.—Whoever causes grievous hurt to any person by doing any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life, or the personal safety of others, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.

As specified above, sec 2(d) of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 read with Chapter II of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules, 2013 create obligations on the employers to provide protective and safety equipment to workers and to take precautions before, during and after any person is engaged in cleaning septic tanks. But despite this common knowledge, the accused made a worker enter a septic tank completely unsupervised and without providing any safety or protective equipment whatsoever. Given these facts, Sec 304 Part II and Sec 338 of IPC, 1860 are clearly attracted.

Since 2008, over 70 people have died while engaged in cleaning septic tanks and sewers. In Bangalore city alone, since the 2013 Act came into force, there have been over 20 cases of manual scavenging leading to over 30 deaths but so far the police has not been able to secure a single conviction in any of these cases. The state administration seems to think that in cases of deaths resulting from manual scavenging, its responsibility ends with providing compensation to the family. Since the Congress (I)-JD(S) coalition government has come to power, they have not appointed anyone to the post of Chairman of the Karnataka State Safaikarmachari Commission after relieving the previous Chairman before the end of the tenure. Since the establishment of the Safaikarmachari Development Corporation, the process of rehabilitation of those identified as Manual Scavengers has completely stalled in Karnataka.

Further Interventions Required

  1. Sec 304 Part II and Sec 338 should be immediately added to the FIR filed in the case at the Beguru Police Station.
  2. The Beguru Police Station should expedite the process of investigation and filing of charge sheet in the case.
  3. While providing compensation to the family of the deceased as per Supreme Court Judgement in Safai Karamchari Andolan & Ors. Vs UOI [WP (C) 583/2003], the circumstances of inter-caste marriage between Mr. Manu and Ms. Nandini and non-acceptance of this marriage by Mr. Manu’s family should be kept in mind so as to ensure that Ms. Nandini and their daughter are not denied justice.
  4. The family of Mr. Manu should be provided rehabilitation as per the provisions of Sec 13 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013.
  5. The BBMP and BWSSB should jointly set-up a helpline which people can call to request services of Sucking and Jetting Machines and the helpline should be widely publicised.

Press Release (18/09/2018): Sewage Treatment Plants are emerging as the new killing fields of Manual Scavenging

Date: 18.09.2018

Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka, an organisation working towards complete eradication of the caste-based practice of manual scavenging in the State of Karnataka, expresses its outrage at the death of 5 workers – Umesh (22), Raja (22), Pankaj (26), Sarfaraj (19) and Vishal (20) – on account of being made to clean a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) at DLF Capital Greens, a residential complex in Moti Nagar, West Delhi on September 9, 2018. These deaths, which are only the latest in a series of deaths of workers in Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs), were not accidents and were eminently preventable. Concerted action from Union and State governments is urgently required to prevent further loss of lives in STPs.

As environmental regulations under the The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 across the country have mandated treatment of wastewater by large housing complexes, Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) have proliferated across large cities in the country. While making these regulations, no thought has been given to the question of who is going to clean them. Several of these STPs are ill-designed and do not include adequate measures for operation and maintenance. The STP at DLF Capital Greens in Moti Nagar, for example, was either not designed or not maintained properly, otherwise it would not have had untreated human waste producing poisonous gases which asphyxiated the 5 workers. It did not even have stairs for workers to enter and exit. Many of the agencies contracted to operate and maintain these STPs employ casual workers to clean the tanks in violation of Section 7 of The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, as was the case at DLF Capital Greens in Moti Nagar. Often these workers are Dalits as were some of the workers who died on September 9 at DLF Capital Greens in Moti Nagar. Because of these reasons, STPs are emerging as the new killing fields of manual scavenging after sewer lines, manholes and septic tanks. In the last two years in Benglauru itself, at least 8 workers have been killed in 4 incidents while cleaning STPs. These deaths are NOT accidents and could have been prevented if appropriate regulatory framework for STPs had been put in place by Union and State governments. Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka demands following urgent steps from Union and State governments:-

  1. The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 needs to be amended to explicitly prohibit manual cleaning of Sewage Treatment Plants.
  2. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) should come out with guidelines on design, operation and maintenance of STPs and should formulate a regulatory framework for STPs which should include following features:-

a) Unless the STP design adheres to the prescribed minimum design specifications, the State Boards should not grant Consent for Establishment (CFE) to the developers;
b) b) Similarly, unless an empanelled agency with competence in Operating and Maintaining STPs is employed by the Apartments, Consent for Operation (CFO) should not be granted by the State Boards;
c) The competence of these agencies should be vetted by the State Boards before empanelling them.

To bring justice to the families of the 5 workers, Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka demands following actions by the authorities:-

  1. As per media reports, it appears that the FIR in the case has been registered under IPC Sec 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and 304A (causing death by negligence); Section 3 (1)(j) of The SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act; and Sections 7,8 and 9 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013. Additionally, IPC Sections 336 (Act endangering life or personal safety of others) and 337 (Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) are also clearly attracted and should be added to the FIR.
  2. Under Section 23 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, “Where an offence under this Act has been committed by a company, every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to,the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly”. Hence, not only the supervisor, but the proprietors of the private companies responsible for the maintenance of the STP should also be named as accused in the FIR.
  3. A compensation of 10 Lakhs should be provided to the dependents of all the 5 workers in accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court in Safai Karamchari Andolan & Ors. vs. Union of India.
  4. Additionally, a compensation of Rs 4.5 Lakhs under SC/ST Atrocities Act 1989 as amended in 2016 should also be provided to the Dalit victims of this tragedy.

We sincerely hope that Union and State governments will wake up from their slumber now and take all steps including the one suggested above to ensure that no one else will be killed in STPs.

Mr. K B Obalesh
State Convener, Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi Karnataka
Email: obaleshkb@gmail.com
Ph: +91 97425 86468

Ref:

  1. Letter to Sh. Arvind Kejriwal, Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi.
  2. Letter to Sh. Thawarchand Gehlot, Hon’ble Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.
  3. Letter to Sh. Shri. Manhar Valjibhai Zala, Hon’ble Chairman, National Commission for Safai Karmacharis.

Coverage in Press

  1. Manual scavengers’ deaths: Reason is “poorly designed” sewage treatment plant in Delhi, proliferating in cities“, Counterview, Sept 21, 2018.

New Indian Express (19/09/2018): Only 905 out of 1 lakh sanitation workers in Karnataka given ID cards

BENGALURU: Deaths of six sanitation workers in Delhi last week has pushed the government there to act immediately and curb this age-old practice. Manual scavengers in Bengaluru and the state, however, feel let down by the government here.

Despite the Supreme Court banning manual scavenging in the country, the Karnataka government lives in denial, according to KB Oblesh, state convenor, Safai Karamchari Kavalu Samithi (SKVS).

“In the state, there are around 1 lakh manual scavengers. As manual scavengers, we are entitled to certain benefits, such as wages. However this can be availed only if one is issued a specific identity card,” says Oblesh.

The problem, however, is the fact that such ID cards take ages to be issued. Narasimhaiah, a manual scavenger from Kolar, for example, had applied for the special ID card over a year ago. “I have not got the card yet. I do not know when I will get it,” he says. Oblesh says that of the nearly one lakh manual scavengers in the state, only 905 have been given identity cards so far. “Of this, around 202 are those from Bengaluru itself. You can imagine the situation that the government has put us in. We do not have a choice but to engage in manual scavenging because such benefits are not extended to us,” he adds.

Shakuntala, another member of SKVS, says that besides the ID card issue, there is also the problem of a large number of high school dropouts within the community.  “I can tell you that in each locality in the city, there many cases of children dropping out of school due to the lack of support. This number is increasingly growing,” she adds.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/bengaluru/2018/sep/19/only-905-out-of-1-lakh-sanitation-workers-in-karnataka-given-id-cards-1873877.html

 

Press Meet in Bengaluru (13/07/2018): On the Death of BBMP Pourakarmika Subramani because of delay in salary

PRESS MEET

jointly organized by

Town Municipal Council, City Municipal Council and Mahanagar Pallike Pourakarmika Mahasagha

and

Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi – Karnataka

Main Demands regarding Contract Safaikarmacharis

  1. Shri Subramani, a contract safaikarmachari working for BBMP, having not received his monthly salary since last six months, and unable to continue living without salary, consumed poison and killed himself; this is an extremely unfortunate matter;

  2. The officials responsible for this incident should be booked under SC/ST Atrocities Act 1989 as amended, and they should be immediately suspended;

  3. Since BBMP is directly responsible for Shri Subramani’s death, his family should be given Rs 25 lakhs and along with this his wife should be provided with permanent employment;

  4. The process of direct appointment of safaikarmacharis by BBMP which is stuck for the last 3-4 years, should be started immediately and finished within a fixed time period;

  5. The process of direct appointment of contract safaikarmacharis working under all Mahanagar Pallike, Corporations, Municipal Councils, and Town Panchayats across the state should be completed immediately; In this regard, orders should be issued to all DCs to complete this process within fixed time period; disciplinary action should be taken against any officer found showing negligence in this matter.

  6. Fixing of the maximum age for direct appointment at 45 years is both misappropriate and anti-worker; this age should be fixed at least 50 years and for the workers above 50 years of age, appropriate compensation should be provided along with employment for their family members;

  7. For direct appointment of safaikarmacharis, the rule that one worker will be appointed for population of 700 is unscientific and should be removed; instead one worker should be appointed for population of 500 (As per I P D Salappa Report)

  8. For past several years, contractors and officials have been colluding to deny safaikarmacharis benefits like PF and ESI; the State government should register complaint in this matter and take appropriate legal action; and action should also be taken to return PF money of all safaikarmacharis.

  9. Suitable housing should be provided to safaikarmacharis in their town/cities; local officials and elected representatives are deliberately not taking action on this front; therefore, state government should immediately take appropriate action;

  10. Basic faculties like drinking water, toilet, hot water and rest house should be provided in all urban areas in the state at the work place of safaikarmacharis;

  11. To ensure that the pre-matric scholarship under the scheme formulated by Central government for children of parents engaged in unclean occupations, reaches all children of safaikarmachari, the state government should make new rules;

  12. The establishment of Safaikarmachari Development Corporation is a step in right direction but it is not discharging its responsibility as per rules; While appointing the Chairman and members of the State Safaikarmachari Commission, only those leaders should be considered who have been engaged in organizing the community for at least 10 years; for no reason should any other persons be considered for appointment.

  13. The establishment of Safaikarmachari Development Corporation is a step in right direction; a joint committee comprising officials and leaders of safaikarmachari organizations should be set-up to formulate and implement new policy and rules for identifying safaikarmacharis and directly providing them facilities so as to avoid the injustice to safaikarmacharis being perpetrated by middle men.

Regarding the Implementation of The Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013

  1. Towards complete eradication of the widespread practice of manual scavenging across the State, a mass campaign through street plays, wall messages, posters, handbills and radio-TV should be carried out in public places, institutions, safaikarmachari community areas etc is the need of the hour; all support and assistance required to carry out this campaign through safaikarmachari organizations should be provided by Social Welfare Department;

  2. State government is required to provide the comprehensive rehabilitation as per 2013 Act to the families of 905 manual scavengers identified and registered since 2013 (2013 urban survey-302; 2016 rural verification – 447 and 2017-Davangere-156); a special programme should be formulated to rehabilitate the families of these 905 families.

  3. Several workers have died while on duty on account of various forms of ill-health issues, but no officials have taken any action regarding this matter; (recently, two safaikarmacharis working under Tumkuru Mahanagara Pallike died along the roadside; the officials there didn’t come and see them even for courtesy sake; neither did they take any action)

With Regards,

Narayana, State President and Former President – State Safaikarmachari Commission

K B Obalesh, State Convener

80 Bheemshale students get admissions to residential schools

Achieving zero school drop-out rate and increasing educational attainment of the children from the safaikarmachari community are key to ensuring that the next generation is not forced back into their parent’s caste-based traditional occupation. Towards this end, Thamate has been running evening educational support centers called Bheemshales in residential areas of safaikarmacharis in Tumkuru district where teachers from the community support students with their studies. Additionally, during Feb-March of every year,for children in Class IV, we organise pre-examination coaching classes for entrance tests to government-run residential schools like Morarji Desai schools, Kittur Rani Chenamma schools and Navodaya schools .

Pre-exam Coaching for Admissions to Residential Schools AY 2018-19
Pre-exam Coaching for Admissions to Residential Schools AY 2018-19

The state government has issued notification which grants direct entry to children of safaikarmacharis to the state government-run residential schools. But for the workers in rural areas, it is proving very difficult to get employment certificates from the Panchayats certifying that they work as safaikarmacharis. Hence most of the students still have to clear the admission tests. For the admissions to Academic Year (AY) 2018-19, 144 students took the coaching classes and 80 of them cleared the exams including 40 boys and 40 girls.

Table 1: No. of students admitted to State government-run residential schools for AY 2018-19

 MadhugiriPavagadaTotal
BoysGirlsBoysGirls
Took pre-exam coaching5094144
Got Admission1030301080

The number of students who cleared the exam for AY 2018-19 is nearly twice the number of students who cleared it for AY 2017-18. The number of bheemshale students getting admissions into state government-run residential schools has beenconsistently increasing over the last four years.

Table 2: Admissions to Residential Schools over various Academic Years

YearBoysGirlsTotal
AY 2015-16171027
AY 2016-1711920
AY 2017-18162743
AY 2018-19404080

This success has thrown up further challenges though. In several instances, children from Pavagada and Madhugiri taluka do not get seats in schools of their own taluka and are allotted seats in schools of nearby taluka which the parents find too far to send their kids. Additionally, in some of the residential schools the quality of teaching is not adequate which makes parents decide against sending their children. The better quality Navodaya schools have two few seats (only 80 per year for the whole of Tumkuru district) and with no affirmative action provisions for children from the community, it is a daunting task for students to clear the entrance examination. But we are working hard towards reaching that goal and that nut will also crack some day.

Meanwhile, 11 bheemshale students who cleared SSLC students have joined I PUC college, deciding to continue education beyond school. Historically, SSLC has proved to be the hurdle, after which most students from the community would drop-out of school and start working at home or with their parents. That has begun to change now, as more and more students pass SSLC in first attempt and with grades high enough to get admission to Pre-University Colleges (PUC). But this first generation of students going to PUC woul require both financial and non-financial support as the cost of education at this level is high and so is the pressure on them to leave their education and join their parents occupation.

Table 3: Admissions to I PUC for AY 2018-19

MadhugiriPavagada 
BGBGTotal
332311

Press Release (07/06/2018): 723 pourakarmika workers become direct employees of Tumkuru City Corporation

Date: 07/06/2018

The struggle in Karnataka for regularisation of pourakarmika workers has been ongoing for the last 15 years. The workers have had to struggle against the system of contracting which made them vulnerable to irregular payments, labour law violations, physical/psychological and sexual harassment.

Last year, the Cabinet had passed a resolution against outsourcing to contractors and the Government of Karnataka had made a special recruitment policy for regularising the existing workers. 10,000 workers would be recruited as permanent staff and the others would be employed as direct payment staff. In December and January, district officials had initiated this process but then got busy because of Karnataka elections.

The Tumkuru District Collector has been working on this issue, co-ordinated by the Directorate of Municipal Administration and with a lot of support and pressure from Safai Karmachari Kavalu Samiti, Thamate and other civil society groups. There have been several protests and petitions demanding regularisation of the pourakarmika workers, 80% of whom are women, majority from the most marginalised communities.

On 6th June 2018, 723 pourakarmika workers have received a Government Order as Urban local Body employees. Of these 174 are permanent employees and 549 are under direct payment. However 45 contract pourakarmikas who either have crossed the age limit or have less than 24 months of service have been removed from service and would lose their jobs from the 1st of June 2018.

The process of regularisation is a great victory for the struggles by workers for dignity, equality and labour rights. This is a landmark action and can become a way forward for workers in other districts and States. We urge the district administration institute remedial measures for the 45 workers who have lost their employment to protect their labour rights.

Mr. K B Obalesh
State Convener, Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi Karnataka
Email: obaleshkb@gmail.com
Ph: +91 97425 86468

Coverage in Press

  1. Vartha Bharathi, 06/06/2018
  2. The Dialogue, 08/06/2018

Davangere (22/02/2018): 156 persons Identified as Manual Scavengers by Davangere City Corporation

In a significant success for the efforts towards eradication of manual scavenging and rehabilitation of manual scavengers in Karnataka, Davangere City Corporation (DCC) has accepted the self-declaration forms submitted by Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi (SKKS) and has registered 156 persons as manual scavengers and issued them ID cards which marks the beginning of their rehabilitation process.

The significance of this achievement has to be seen in the light of the complete denial by all local authorities in Karnataka to registers workers as manual scavengers and provide them rehabilitation even when presented with evidence and self-declaration forms attesting to their having worked or continuing to work as manual scavengers. In the survey conducted by the various Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in the state, total number of manual scavengers officially identified had been just 302. The gross underestimation of number of manual scavengers in urban Karnataka that this number reflects would be come clear when one looks at the fact that 2011 Census had enumerated over 73,769 insanitary latrines (services by humans and animals or draining into open pits) in urban Karnataka. So if one is to believe, the state government figures, just 302 manual scavengers are cleaning 73,769 insanitary latrines. If you add, the single pit latrines, which also requires manual cleaning every couple of years, we are looking at numbers of much higher order than 302. The failure to identify those working as manual scavengers not only amounts to perpetuation of manual scavenging practice by the government which is responsible for its prohibition but it is also the denial of rehabilitation to them and thus violation of their right to human dignity. Most of these persons belongs to Dalit communities, which explains why the government and administration is so criminally negligent when it comes to removal of the casteist practice of manual scavenging.

To expose the lies of the government, SKKS had organised a State-level jatha during 22-31 March 2016 wherein those who had been working as manual scavengers were urged to come forward and submit self-declaration forms to the respective ULBs. When the Jatha reached Davangere, 56 workers from Nituvalli colony came forward, expressing their willingness to file self-declaration forms. Mr. D S Babbanna from Action Initiative for Development (AID) became a member of SKKS and helped the workers file self-declaration forms. On July 31 2016, these forms were submitted to the City Corporation and the District administration, demanding registration and rehabilitation for those working as manual scavengers. SKKS had estimated that in Davangere district there are more than 300 persons working as manual scavengers across various ULBs and the district administration should direct all ULBs to carry out a comprehensive survey to demolish all insanitary latrines and identify all manual scavengers employed to clean them.

Submission of Self-declaration forms by workers
Submission of Self-declaration forms by workers

The City Corporation refused to register these workers as manual scavengers and effectively denied them a life of dignity. Even the district administration also refused to give directions to the ULBs to register those who have come forward as manual scavengers or to carry out a survey for identification of insanitary latrines and persons working as manual scavengers. SKKS carried out its own surveys and re-surveys on three occasions and filed more self-declaration forms with the City Corporation. By now, the total number of persons who had come forward had increased to 156 but the administration refused to register them.

A case was filed at the Karnataka State Safaikarmachari Commission in February 2017, which visited the area and directed that a inter-departmental Inquiry Committee be formed to look into the matter. Following the favourable report of the Inquiry Committee, in Nov 2017, the Corporation agreed to register the workers as manual scavengers.

After 1.5 years of submission of self-declaration forms, finally, in a public event organized on 22nd February 2018 at Rotary Club in Davangere under the joint aegis of Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi, District Legal Services Authority, District Lawyers Association, District Social Welfare Department, City Corporation, Manual Scavengers’ and Safaikarmachari Welfare Trust, Dr. B R Ambedkar Development Corporation and AID organization, the registered workers were provided ID cards.

Persons identified as manual scavengers receiving identity cards from the Hon’ble District and Sessions Judge
Persons identified as manual scavengers receiving identity cards from the Hon’ble District and Sessions Judge
Registration ID Cards for eligibility for rehabilitation
Registration ID Cards for eligibility for rehabilitation

The meeting was presided over by Justice S. H. Hosgoudar, Chief District and Session Judge and Chairman, District Legal Services Authority. He said that protection of individual dignity is a crucial part of the Indian Constitution and hence untouchability and caste-based discrimination has been outlawed but the continuation of a inhuman practice like manual scavenging as evident from the news reports of manual scavenging deaths is a blot on the whole nation.

Persons identified as manual scavengers and their families participating in the meeting

Senior Advocate Mr. L H Arunkumar, member of State Legal Services Authority pointed out that in the 3 years between 2013 and 2016, 1500 persons have been killed all over India while engaged in manual scavenging. In the state, more than 15 persons have died in such cases of manual scavenging.

Persons identified as manual scavengers and their families participating in the meeting

While the acceptance of self-declaration forms and registration of these 156 persons is a significant milestones, the dream of a manual scavenging free Karnataka is still quite far and following urgent steps need to be taken as small steps towards that dream:-

  1. The State government should direct all urban and rural local bodies to carry out comprehensive survey of insanitary latrines within their jurisdiction which should be completed in the next two months;
  2. The State government should direct all urban and rural local bodies to identify and register all manual scavengers working under their jurisdiction including those who have already submitted self-declaration forms within 3 month period;
  3. The State government should initiate meaningful rehabilitation process of all identified manual scavengers as per the provisions of the MSR Act 2013 and the directions of the Supreme Court and complete the process in six months;
  4. The process of investigation and filing of chargesheets into all the 35 cases of manual scavenging leading to deaths should be fast tracked and special public prosecutor should be appointed to secure convictions in each of these cases; State government should use its power under Sec 21 of the MSR Act 2013 to confer powers of Judicial Magistrate on the Executive Magistrate to expedite the proceedings.

Report by Mr. Babanna, AID and member of Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi 

Memorandum submitted to the National Safaikarmachari Commission (22/02/2018)

 

Date: 22.02.2018

The Chairman,

National Commission for Safai Karmacharis

New Delhi

Sub: Status of Implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 in Karnataka and the Condition of Contract Safaikarmacharis in the State.

Respected Sir,

In the context of your visit to the State of Karnataka, we, the members of Safai Karmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka, which is a forum of Dalit activists working towards eradication of manual scavenging, would like to bring to your attention the deplorable status of implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (MSR) Act 2013 and the violation of the rights of contract safai karmacharis working for Urban Local Bodies (ULB) in Karnataka.

Status of Implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (MSR) Act 2013 in Karnataka

a) Five years after the enactment of the MSR Act 2013, most of the Urban Local Bodies and Gram Panchayaths in the state are yet to initiate the process of identification of insanitary latrines in their jurisdiction even though section 4 (1) of the Act requires them to complete the process within 2 months of the Act coming into force;

b) While the Socio Economic Caste Census listed 15,375 persons as Manual Scavengers in rural Karnataka alone, the State government has registered only 779 persons (302 in Urban and 477 in Rural areas) as Manual Scavengers. Self-declaration forms submitted to district authorities are not being accepted by them denying those working as manual scavengers rehabilitation under the Act;

c) Even for the 779 persons who have been registered as manual scavengers in the State, the process of rehabilitation has been completely ineffective and has not followed the provisions of the MSR Act 2013 and various Supreme Court Orders on the matter. Most identified manual scavengers are yet to receive One-Time Cash Assistance (OTCA), self-employment training and financial assistance under SRMS scheme;

d) As per our reports, since 2008, in 35 incidents of manual scavenging, 72 people have died but in none of the cases have gone to trial yet. Police officials in the State police are not registering these cases under sections of MSR Act 2013 allowing the guilty officials and persons to get bail in the cases;

Employment of Persons as Manual Scavengers at Religious Festival at Shraavanbelegola, Haasan, Karnataka

e) News reports[1] have indicated that the district administration of Haasan district had allowed organizers of a religious festival at Shraavanbelegola (Haasan, Karnataka) to build insanitary latrines cleaned by manual scavengers in violation of Sec 5 of the MSR Act but so far no official or organizer has been arrested for the offences under the Act demonstrating how the government is guilty of perpetuating this inhuman casteist practice.

Violation of the rights of contract Safai karmacharis employed by ULBs in Karnataka

f) In August 2017, the State government of Karnataka decided to regularize 10,000 contract safai karmacharis employed by Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in the state after a long struggle waged by the workers for their rights above 90% of whom belong to Scheduled Castes (SC). But the Recruitment rules framed by the government threatens to deprive them of their rights in following ways:-

  1. The maximum age for regular employment has been fixed at 45 years which would deprive workers who have worked as contract employees for last 20-25 years of regular employment and social security benefits.
  2. The proposed recruitment process will follow reservations quotas for SC, ST, OBC and GEN categories even though it is well known that above 90% of the workers belong to SC communities. The insistence of limiting the recruitment of workers to their reservation quota only will be a grave injustice to dalit workers who have struggled for years to get their employment regularized.

In light of the above facts, we appeal to you to raise the above issues with the State government officials during your visit to Karnataka and direct the authorities to take, among other steps, following actions:-

Status of Implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (MSR) Act 2013 in Karnataka

  • Initiate survey for identification of insanitary latrines within the jurisdiction of all local authorities in the state which should be completed in the next two months;
  • Identify and register all manual scavengers working under the jurisdiction of local authorities in the state including those who have already submitted self-declaration forms within 3 month period;
  • Initiate meaningful rehabilitation process of identified manual scavengers as per the provisions of the MSR Act 2013 and the directions of the Supreme Court and complete the process in six months;
  • The process of investigation and filing of chargesheets into all the 35 cases of manual scavenging leading to deaths should be fast tracked and special public prosecutor should be appointed to secure convictions in each of these cases; State government should use its power under Sec 21 of the MSR Act 2013 to confer powers of Judicial Magistrate on the Executive Magistrate to expedite the proceedings.

Employment of Persons as Manual Scavengers at Religious Festival at Shraavanbelegola, Haasan, Karnataka

  • For violation of MSR Act 2013 by the district authorities and organizers of the religious festival at Shravanabelegola, Haasan, Karnataka, cases under Sec 8 and 9 of the Act and 3(1)(j) of SC/ST Atrocities Act 1989 as amended in 2016 should be filed against the culprits;

Violation of the rights of contract Safai karmacharis employed by ULBs in Karnataka

  • The maximum age for regularization of contract safai karmacharis should be extended to 60 years and recruitment should be done on the basis of years of service.
  • All existing contract safai karmacharis should be regularized without any restrictions based on reservation quotas since this is not a fresh recruitment but a regularization of existing workers.
  • Any other actions that the Commission may deem necessary.

 

K B Obalesh

Member, State Monitoring Committee u/ MSR Act 2013

Convener, Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi Karnataka

  1. [1]http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/shravanabelagola-latrines-run-afoul-of-manual-scavenging-law/article22537499.ece