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Case Report (29/01/2020): 2 persons die in a sewage chamber in Bengaluru

On 25th January, just one day before Republic Day, the management of Sri Svethambar Sthanakwasi Bawees Sampraday Jain Sangha Trust located on the Infantry Road in Shivajinagar Bengaluru, employed Muniyanna (~50 years) and Sidappa (17 years) to clean an approximately 20 feet deep chamber into which sewage was being discharged. Sidappa went in first and fell unconscious. Muniyanna went to save him and he also feel unconcious. Workers working on premises rused to save both of them. Sidappa was broght dead to the hospital while Muniyanna was admitted to the ICU of Bowring hospital. On 29th Janunary 2020, Muniyanna also passed away.

The doctors said that his lungs were filled with sewage. There was foul smelling sewage in the chamber and it was strewn all around the chamber. Despite this, the police officials at the Commercial Street Police Station refused to accept a complaint and file a FIR. Only after a protest outside the mortuary and pressure from lawyers was a FIR filed late evening on 25th January 2020.


A protest was organized jointly by AICCTU, Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka, People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), All India People’s Forum (AIPF) and Karnataka Slum Janadolana on 27th January 2020 at Town Hall in Bengaluru urging government to take urgent steps to stop killig of Dalit workers. Labour Commissioner came and received the memorandum.

Press Coverage

Training to Sanitation Workers by BWSSB

Because of the continued occurrence of manual scavenging deaths in Bengaluru city, the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) in a meeting held on 12.07.2019 under the Chairpersonship of the Additional Chief Secretary, was tasked with providing training to sanitation workers engaged in cleaning private Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs), open drains, gutters, manholes using private Sucking and Jetting Machines etc. including the 202 persons who had been identified by BBMP as manual scavengers in 2013.

An advertisement was issued inviting applications for the trainings. Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka assisted the Karnataka State Safaikarmachari Commission in identifying the participants for the trainings. So far, 177 workers have been trained as part of 3 batches. At the end of training, the participants were given certificates and BWSSB, Karnataka State Safaikarmachari Development Corporation and Karnataka State Safaikarmachari Commission will come up with a scheme to facilitate employment opportunities to the trained workers.

Details of Trainings being provided by BWSSB to Sanitation Workers

BatchDatesNo. of ParticipantsMenWomen
118 – 30 Nov 201938371
29 – 21 Dec 201975723
36 – 18 Jan 202064640

Photos (Batch 1 – 18 – 30 Nov 2019)

Photos (Batch 2 – 9 – 21 Dec 2019)

Photos (Batch 3 – 6 – 18 Jan 2020)

Day 5 (03/01/2020): State-level Jatha moves to Bengaluru Rural district

On its fifth day, the State-level Jatha for eradication of Manual Scavenging from Karnataka being organized by Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka (SKKS) moved from Kolar district to Bengaluru Rural district on its fifth day. A rally was taken out by the workers culminating into a sit-in front of the Deputy Commissioner office against the ineffective implementation of the Prohibiton of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013. The rally started at 12:00 pm and reached the office at 1:00 pm. The DC received the memorandum at 2:00 pm.


The first phase of the State-level Jatha for eradication of Manual Scavenging finished on 3rd January 2020. The next leg of the jatha would begin in the third week of January.

Press Coverage

Day 4 (02/01/2020): State-level Jatha moves south to Kolar

On its fourth day, the State-level Jatha for eradication of Manual Scavenging from Karnataka being organized by Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka (SKKS) moved from Dharwad district south to Kolar on its fourth day. A rally was taken out by the worker culminating into a sit-in front of the Deputy Commissioner office against the ineffective implementation of the Prohibiton of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013.

In Kolar district over 550 persons have been identified as manual scavengers but several of them are yet to be rehabilitated fully. A rally was taken out to the Deputy Commissioner (DC) Office. When the jatha reached the DC Officer, the officials informed us that the DC was not available to receive our Memorandum despite advance initimation. Instead of handing over the Memorandum to junior officials the Samithi members staged a sit-in for 3 hours till the DC came in person to receive the memorandum and have a discussion with the contingent.


Press Coverage

Day 3 (01/01/2020): State-level Jatha moves to Dharwad

As the year 2020 rolled in, the State-level Jatha for eradication of Manual Scavenging from Karnataka being organized by Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka (SKKS) moved from Haveri to Dharwad district on its third day. A sit-in was organized by the district level SKKS body in front of the Deputy Commissioner office against the ineffective implementation of the Prohibiton of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013.

A representative of the Deputy Commissioner, met the protestors and accepted the Memorandum on behalf of the Deputy Commissioner.


Press Coverage

Day 2 (31/12/2019): State-level Jatha moves northward to Haveri

The State-level Jatha for eradication of Manual Scavenging from Karnataka being organized by Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka (SKKS) moved from Davangere to Haveri district on its second day, 31st Dec 2019. The campaign in Haveri began with a Press Meet.

Haveri district has not bee very active in identifying persons working as manual scavengers. During the survey conducted in 2016 in the rural areas of the district, only 8 persons were identified and they also are yet to get any rehabilitation. Hence, one of the main issued discussed with the District administration was expediting the process in the district.

A memorandum was submitted to the Chief Minister through the Deputy Commissioner.


Day 1 (30/12/2019): State-level Jatha starts from Davangere

The State-level Jatha for eradication of Manual Scavenging from Karnataka which is being organized by Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka (SKKS) began on 30th Dec 2019 from Davangere. The Jatha began with cultural team performing songs and street play and garlanding the status of Dr. B R Ambedkar.

A memorandum was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner of Davangere district regarding the unresolved issues of manual scavengers in Davangere district. In 2018, after a two-year long struggle, 156 persons had been identified as manual scavengers by the Davangere City Corporation. This identification itself was a culmination of the process that began in Davangere during the State-level Jatha organized by SKKS in 2016. But since the identification and the issuance of Identity Cards in 2018, no further rehabilitation has been provided by the administration to these 156 persons.

Mr. Mahantesh, Deputy Commissioner (Davangere) interacting with memeber of the Jatha

Additionally, in the recently concluded survey of Manual Scavengers in Davangere district, SKKS had facilitatied filing of 454 applications for identification across the 6 Urban Local Bodoes (Davangere City Corporation, Harihara CMC, Chanagiri TMC, Melebennuru TMC, Honnali TP and Jagaluru TP) in the district. Out of these, over 300 applications have been accepted. The Deputy Commissioner was also urged to expedite the process of rehabilitation of the newly identified persons also. A comprehensive memorandum was also submitted to the Chief Minister through the Deputy Commissioner.


Case Report (02/04/2019): 3 workers die in a septic tank at Indi Town, Vijayapura

On 2nd April 2019, the owners of Amar International Hotel at Chadachan Road in Indi Town of Vijayapura district, asked Gudusaab Bagwaan (40), Nabilal Ekkewale (32) and Lalappa Madar (35) to clean the septic tank behind the hotel. The workers went inside the septic tank around 4 pm in the evening and never came back. The hotel owners checked the tank only at 7 pm and saw someone lying unconscious in the tank. When they called out, there was no response from any of the workers. The owners called the police along with Fire brigade. The body of Lallappa Madar, belonging to Dalit community, was brought out first but to get the bodies of the remaining two workers, JCB had to be brought to break open the tank.

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On 27th April 2019, in a similar incident on Nagwara Main Road in Bengaluru City, two workers – Gafoor Pasha (45) and Aftab Pasha (38) – died while cleaning a well which was being used to dump sewage. On March 2, 2019, in a similar incident in Bengaluru city, a worker had died while cleaning a chamber of a private school on Bengaluru Main Road. The number of manual scavenging deaths in Karnataka has now crossed 80 and it does not look like that the trend of these deaths are going to end anytime soon because of complete absence of political will from the state government. Because of the pressure built by Dalit and Human Rights organizations, while compensation is being provided to the families of the deceased workers and FIRs are being registered promptly, the government has completely failed in taking steps towards preventing such deaths. There are two aspects to prevention of manual scavenging: 1) making technology available and 2) ensuring criminal action against those who employ human beings, in most cases dalits, as manual scavengers.

As part of a PIL filed by PUCL in 2009 (WP 30221/2009), the Karnataka High Court had ordered government to buy Sucking and Jetting Machines for all Urban Local Bodies. After these orders, each Urban Local Body was provided with minimum one Sucking and Jetting Machine. BWSSB has 125 S&J machines. But in many towns, these machines are lying idle. Some have broken down, some urban local bodies have not hired drivers and operators, while others have not publicized how people can request services of these machines. With machines becoming available, slowly and slowly, government bodies are being forced under public pressure to stop using manual scavengers in maintenance of sewers and manholes, but most cities do not have UGD coverage and houses and establishments rely on septic tanks and chambers. While few years back, most of the manual scavenging deaths were happening when government was employing manual scavengers for cleaning the sewers and manholes, off late a majority of deaths are happening when private persons like house owners or hotel or hospital or school owners hire workers for cleaning septic tanks or chambers. Thus ensuring that enough numbers of machines are available, and can be easily requested by private persons by calling a helpline number is a necessary step towards prevention of manual scavenging.

Indi Town also got one Sucking and Jetting Machine after this order which can be hired for 1500 rupees, but the hotel owners preferred using workers as manual scavengers for cleaning the septic tank. So, while availability of machines is necessary, it is not sufficient. Since, most people doing this work come from Dalit community, there is no value for their lives. Hence, if someone hires a person as manual scavengers, ensuring strict punishment, will act as deterrent. Unfortunately, in over 40 cases of manual scavenging deaths that have occurred since the 2013 Manual Scavenging Act came into being, there has not been a single conviction! The government needs to treat these cases as special category cases and try them in fast track courts after appointing special public prosecutors. Unless this is ensured, every year we would be counting dead bodies.

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.

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