Category Archives: case report

Case Report (2023/12/23): Death of Two Maintenance Workers in the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) at Shahi Exports Pvt. Ltd.


The manufacturing unit (Unit 23) of Shahi Exports Private Limited (one of the largest garments’ exporter in India) located in Beretana Agrahara on Hosur Main Road has over 2,300 workers working over three shifts a day. Several toilets have been constructed for these workers and the sewage from these toilets flows into a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) with a treatment capacity of 150 kLD. The inflowing sewage is collected in a 1000kL collection tank from which it enters the Aeration Tank (15 kL capacity) where primary treatment occurs. This partially treated sewage from the aeration tank is then sent to a Clarifier Tank where the separation of the solids from the liquid content of the sewage takes place, and the liquid part flows to the Filter Feed Tank as shown in the schematic below. 

Schematic of the Sewage Treatment Plant at Shahi Exports Manufacturing Units

The Filter Feed Tank has a submersible pump through which liquid is pumped to the next unit in the treatment process. The depth of the Filter Feed tank is about 10 feet and the breadth is about 15-18 feet. This Filter Feed Tank is not designed for human entry. It has a very small entry, and no in-built ladder arrangement for climbing down. 

The entry point for climbing inside the filter feed tank of the STP

The access to the entry point of the Filter fFeed Tank is also extremely cramped and congested. Ordinarily, the Filter Feed Tank should contain only liquid content and no solid content should enter the tank, but either because of bad design or improper functioning of the Sewage Treatment Plant, a lot of sludge had accumulated inside the Filter Feed Tank. According to an employee of Shahi Exports, the solidified sewage was 1 feet deep, and thus the tanks required to be cleaned. 

On 23rd December 2023, two maintenance workers – Mr. K. Anand (44 years), a native of Andhra Pradesh belonging to Kamsala caste and Mr. T R Shashikumar (51 years), a native of Tamil Nadu. belonging to Naidu caste – were asked to enter inside the Filter Feed Tank and clean it with their bare hands. A utility ladder (see the image below) was given to them for climbing down the 10-ft deep tank. Clearly, they had no prior knowledge or training on the precautions to be undertaken while entering a confined space which had accumulated sludge in it. According to the General Manager of the factory, Mr. Suresh, the tank hadn’t been cleaned for 3 years. Because of the presence of untreated sludge for such a long period, that too in an almost completely closed tank with only a small opening, the tank is likely to have contained a high concentration of gases.

The narrow access to the tank and the ladder used to go inside the 10-ft Tank

Mr. Anand was the first one to enter the tank at about 2:45 pm and when he stopped responding, Mr. Shashikumar also went inside. It is not clear if they were being supervised by anyone while they entered the tank. The General Manager of the factory feigned ignorance about whether any other staff of the factory was present at the spot or not or whether the work was being supervised by any staff of the factory.  Before the unconscious workers were pulled out, they were inside the tank for about 30 minutes. They were rushed to Kaveri Hospital where they were declared dead. Both the workers had been working at the factory for a period of 2-3 years. The Sewage Treatment Plant had received Consent for Operation (CFO) in 2010 which was renewed in 2022 for a period of 10 years. 

Mr. Sridhar (29 years), son of Mr. Shashikumar and Mr. Brahmayya (29 years) son of Mr. Anand were informed about the incident at around 3:30 PM and when they reached the hospital, they were informed about the deaths of their respective fathers. Based on a complaint by Mr. Sridhar, an FIR (CR No. 729/2023) was registered at the Parappana Agrahara Police Station u/s 7 and 9 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 and 34, 304 Part A of the Indian Penal Code against five persons: Nandish Gowda (Production General Manager), Rajesh Marar (Maintenance Deputy General Manager), Sreenivas (STP/ETP Incharge) and James Raju and Chandra Mohan (both HR). 

While the registration of the FIR by the police under the PEMSR Act, 2013 is laudable, the invoking of the IPC Section 304 Part B (culpable homicide) instead of the much weaker IPC section 304 Part A (negligence) is warranted. The knowledge of the hazardous nature of the work that the two workers were made to carry out has to be assumed in light of the fact that the tank was not designed to be cleaned manually and such manual cleaning is banned under the law. Another serious lapse on the part of the investigating team was their failure to collect samples of the sludge present inside the tank. The FSL forensic team is reported to have collected only a sample of the gases present in the tank, which might help ascertain the cause of death but not the source of the gases which is important for the crime to be linked with the practice of manual scavenging.

When a team of officials, lawyers and activists visited the factory on 26th December 2023, i.e. three days after the incident, the company had not even started the process of disbursing compensation of Rs 30 lakhs to the family of each of the deceased worker, in accordance with the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Dr. Balram Singh vs Union of India [Writ Petition 324 of 2020].

Unending Series of Deaths in STPs and Regulatory Vacuum

This fatal incident is the latest in an unending series of deaths in Sewage Treatment Plants in Bengaluru. Since 2016, seven such incidents have been documented (see Table 1) which have claimed 13 lives so far. After the 2016 notification issued by the Forest, Ecology and Environment Department in Karnataka, it has become mandatory for residential apartments meeting the specified threshold (in terms of area or number of housing units) to build and operate sewage treatment plants. Since these regulations were issued, the number of STPs have proliferated in Bangalore. While Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) mandates construction of STPs as a precondition for providing water connection, it doesn’t regulate the design, construction and maintenance of these STPs. The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) also doesn’t  regulate the design and operation of residential STPs beyond issuing Consent for Establishment (CFE) and Consent for Operation (CFO) under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. Often, CFEs are obtained by developers, who make every effort to save space while designing and constructing these STPs. Resultantly, most of the STPs are located underground in cramped and confined spaces. The developers then transfer the maintenance of the apartments to respective Residential Welfare Associations who are required to obtain and/or renew the CFOs. In many instances of such deaths, the STPs were found to be operating without a valid CFO, but KSPCB hadn’t taken any action to shut the plants down. In March 2021, the KSPCB had taken some tentative steps by issuing an Official Memorandum (OM) on STPs prescribing a few basic precautionary measures, but this OM was subsequently withdrawn citing lack of powers under the the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 to make such prescriptions. This leaves us with a situation where, owing to these environmental regulations, thousands of killing fields in the form of sewage treatments plants have sprung up across the city, and while multiple authorities have been tasked with implementation of these regulations to protection the environment, none of these authorities are willing to shoulder the responsibility of protecting lives of those who are made to work at these treatment plants.   


  1. Disbursal of compensation of Rs 30 lakh to the families of each of the deceased workers should be ensured in accordance with the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Dr. Balram Singh vs Union of India [Writ Petition 324 of 2020].
  2. The families of Mr. Anand and Mr. Shashikumar should be provided with rehabilitation in accordance with the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. 
  3. A comprehensive and effective regulatory framework for Sewage Treatment Plants (STP) should be enacted which should include suitable amendments to the following laws:-
    1. Municipal laws related to Building Plan approval to ensure safe design of STPs from the point of maintenance;  
    2. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 governing the issuance of Consent for Establishment (CFE) and Consent for Operation (CFO) under which the terms of these consents should include safety protocols to be followed for maintenance of STPs
    3. Karnataka Apartment Ownership Act prescribing the obligations of the house-owners and the Residential Welfare Association (RWAs) with respect to ensuring safety of STP maintenance workers, provision of appropriate training and the punishment for non-discharge of these obligations. 
S. No.Place of IncidentDate of IncidentNo. of Persons DeceasedName of the DeceasedCase Details
1Shantinivas Apartment
18.10.20162Venkatramana (24 years)
Manjunath (30 years)
Yeshwanthpur PS
CR 402/2016
2Jatti Dwarakamai Apartments, Whitefield24.04.20171Prithivi Raj (23 years)Whitefield PS
CR 197/2017
3ND Sepal Apartments
06.01.20183Madegowda (45 years),
Srinivas (52 years)
Narayanswamy (43 years)
Bandepalya PS
CR 6/2018
4Prestige Langleigh Apartments, ECC Road, Whitefield 03.02.20181Rajappa (38 years)Whitefield PS
CR 46/2018
5Yamloka Restaurant
AECS Layout
13.02.20182Ramu (25 years)
Ravi (28)
CR 48/2018
6Prestige Falcon City
04.02.20232Ravikumar (39 years)
Dilip Kumar Jena (24 years)
Konanakunte PS
CR 45/2023
7Shahi Exports Pvt Ltd.,
Hosur Main Road
23.12.20232K Anand (41 years)
T R Shashikumar (51 years)
Parappana Agrahara PS
CR 729/2023

Case Report (28/01/2021): 2 persons die in a manhole in Kalaburagi

Kalaburagi (erstwhile Gulbarga) is the second most densely populated city in Karnataka after Bengaluru, with a density of 8824 persons per sqm. It is also a rapidly expanding city. Huge investments have been made in building the underground drainage network in the city. Just under the Atal Mission For Rejuvenation And Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme, 230 kms of sewer lines with over 8000 manholes is nearing completion by Karnataka Urban Water Supply & Drainage Board (KUWS&DB). Apart from AMRUT schemes, sewer lines have been constructed under North Karnataka Urban Sector Infrastructure Programme (NKUSIP) by Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development and Finance Corporation (KUIDFC). As per the Kalaburagi Mahanagara Palike estimates, the city now has a 700km-long underground drainage network. But as has become a pattern with sanitation programmes in India (Swachh Bharat Mission or Smart City Mission are prime examples), a lot of investments are made into the infrastructure itself, but not enough attention is paid to the operation and maintenance of this infrastructure. In other words, those who design and implement these projects hardly ever bother about those who would end up cleaning these toilets, manholes and sewer lines. For Kalaburagi city, the KUWS&DB which is in-charge of maintenance of the underground drainage system, has exactly 3 Sucking and Jetting Machines and 1 Desilting machine!

As a result not only is informal manual scavenging work rampant, even those sanitation workers who are hired by the KUWS&DB itself, either directly or through contractors, routinely get inside manholes and clear blockages. According to activists who work with the safaikarmachari community in the city, there are 800-1000 workers who engage in various forms of manual scavenging in Kalaburagi city, spread over Tarphel, Indiranagar, Ghazipura, Santraswadi, Mahboob Nagar, Azadpur Road, Tipu Chowk, Panchasheelanagar and Umar colony localities. The workers belong to Valmiki (Dalit) and Muslim community in equal numbers. This singular fact explains why crores have been spent on building sewer lines but small investments in functioning mechanical equipment like Sucking and Jetting Machines and Desilting machines which could prevent loss of precious lives, is oft en an afterthough.

Out of the estimated 800-1000 persons engaged in manual scavenging in the city, only 243 persons were identified as manual scavengers by the Kalaburagi Mahanagara Palike in 2018 through ‘surveys’ which were essentially one-day camps where self-declaration forms were invited from those engaged in manual scavenging. The process was in complete violation of the survey protocol prescribed by the Prohibition of Engagement as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 and the Rules thereunder. Unsurprisingly, the half-hearted attempt by the Mahanagara Palike left out several hundreds of workers, who continue to make a living through this hazardous work in absence of any rehabilitation from the government. 

Among them are the 25-30 workers residing in Umer colony, whose families have been engaged in manual scavenging for several generations. 55-year old Burhan Sheikh, a resident of Umer colony, started working for  KUWS&DB in 1982 at a salary of INR 270 per month as a sanitation worker. He used to clear sewer blockages with a bamboo stick. Before him, his father used to be engaged in the same work. Burhan has not been registered as a manual scavenger since, as per the logic of Mahanagara Palike, he now has a permanent job as a UGD worker in KUWS&DB. Several members of Burhan Sheikh’s family including his sons and his grand-son also joined him in this work as sanitation workers under KUWS&DB but on a contract basis. 

While rest of the city is being connected to Underground drainage, places like Umer Colony where safaikarmacharis reside have open drains

Burhan Sheikh had lost his older son, Mahboob Sheikh, about 5 years ago. Mahboob Sheikh was opening a sewer chamber when he complained of discomfort in his chest. Instead of taking him to hospital, the KUWS&DB contractors sent him back to his house. After cycling back to his house in Umer Colony, Mahboob Sheikh collapsed and died. KUWS&DB neither paid any compensation to his family, nor offered any job to any of his family members on compassionate grounds.

On the morning of 28th January 2021, Burhan Sheikh’s son Lal Ahmad (36) got a call from the contractor, who asked them to come to the junction road between Kailash Nagar and Mahalaxmi Layout. The sewer line flowing along the road had been blocked for several months and the KUWS&DB had been receiving constant complaints from the residents. Lal Ahmad, Rashid Sheikh (Burhan’s grandson) and Raj Ahmad (Burhan Sheikh’s youngest son), Tasneem Sheikh and two other residents of Umer Colony, who usually work together, reached the spot where the UGD was blocked. As per eye-witness accounts, the Sucking and Jetting Machine which was called, was unable to clear the blockage because of the presence of silt and stone pieces blocking the sewer line. When the lone Desilting Machine was called, it was unavailable. The contractor then asked the workers to get down inside the man-hole and clear the blockage with a bamboo-stick. When the workers refused to take the risk, the contractor promised to clear their pending 3-4 months’ wages, if they did this one task. All this while, the contractor and the private company supervisor were in touch with  KUWS&DB officials. 

Desperate for getting their pending wages, Rashid Sheikh first entered the 18ft manhole and tried to clear the blockage with a bamboo stick. As soon as the silt and stones were cleared, the septage and noxious gases spurted out from the sewer line onto Rashid Sheikh’s face. He started to lose consciousness and tried to climb back up but was unable to do so. Lal Ahmad went down to bring back Rashid but the concentration of noxious gases was so high that he too became unconscious and fell inside the manhole. Raja Ahmad, also fell in attempting to pull out his colleagues. The other three workers and the contractor who were outside the manhole brought a rope and were able to pull out Raja Ahmad since he was closer to ground level. But Lal Ahmad and Rashid Sheikh had fallen deep inside the manhole, and they could only be pulled out after a JCB was called in to break open the manhole. Both Lal Ahmad and Rashid Sheikh were dead on the spot while Raja Ahmad was rushed to the District Hospital in a serious condition. 

The subsequent events followed the usual script – the police didn’t register an FIR till few organizations staged a rasta roko protest. When the FIR was filed, weaker provisions of IPC (Sec 304A – Negligence) were invoked instead of more appropriate sections (IPC 304 Part II – Culpable Homicide) and while the list of accused included KUWS&DB officials, their names were mis-spelt in the FIRs. The KUWS&DB first tried to negotiate the compensation amount with the family and settled on Rs 5 lakh which is in complete violation of the Supreme Court directions in Safai Karamchari Andolan vs Union of India

The statements of officials from Kalaburagi Mahanagara Palike and the KUWS&DB tried to paint this as an accident. According to them, the workers slipped and fell into the manhole. The workers can be seen in their undergarments in the pictures from the spot. Why would they remove their clothes if the manhole was being cleaned through a machine? How would three people slip all at once and fall into the manhole? The Chief Engineer, Kalaburagi Division, KUWS&DB even claimed that the workers “would have been drunk, don’t you know these people?” and suggested “de-addiction counseling” as a preventive measure! Conversation at Umer Colony with others who work as manual scavengers revealed that it was not uncommon for contractors to ask workers to get inside the manholes. The workers indicated several places like Basaveshwara Hospital etc where they have gone inside manholes. But the government keeps claiming that there is no manual scavenging in Karnataka!

Report in Kannada published in February 2021 edition of Slum Jagatthu Monthly Magazine.


Fact-finding Report by Safaikarmachari Kavalu Samithi-Karnataka



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

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.

CREATOR: gd-jpeg v1.0 (using IJG JPEG v80), quality = 80

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.

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.

Case Report (17-27 Feb 2018): Manual Scavenging during religious festival at Shravanbelegola in Hassan district, Karnataka

On Jan 27, 2018, The Hindu, had reported that insanitary latrines in violation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation (MSR) Act 2013 had been built at Tyagi Nagar – a temporary are built at Shravanbelegola – to be used during the Mahamastakabhisheka festival at Shravanbelegola in Hassan, Karnataka. The news report also mentioned that dalits from Chitrakoot district in Uttar Pradesh have been brought to clean these insanitary latrines.

On Jan 28, 2018, the Principal Secretary to the Revenue Department, Government of Karnataka, directed the organisers to demolish the insanitary latrines as reported by the The Hindu. Section 5 of the MSR Act 2013 states that

5. (1) Notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, no person, local authority or any agency shall, after the date of commencement of this Act,—
(a) construct an insanitary latrine;

Any contravention of provisions of Section 5 is punishable under Section 8 of the MSR Act 2013. Hence, instead of directing the organizers of the religious festival, the administration should have filed criminal charges against the organizers for violation of the MSR Act 2013.

On 30 Jan 2018, after a visit to the site, members of Karnataka State Safai Karmachari Commission had brought this to the notice of the district administration and had issued a notice to the organizers to demolish all insanitary latrines, as reported by The Hindu.

Despite these directions, the insanitary latrines were not demolished. Under the Act, the Deputy Commissioner has the responsibility of ensuring that the prohibitory provisions are not violated but the Deputy Commissioner of Hassan district Ms. Rohini Sindhuri appeared to condone the violations. The News Minute had quoted her saying:

“The Tyagis are Digambar Jains and are set in their ways. They don’t use the sanitary toilets that we use. The township has been divided into 12 Nagars and Tyagi Nagar is being looked after by the Jain Mutt. The Safai Karamchari Commission and the Revenue Secretary has issued a notice to the mutt, but the religious leaders said that they will defecate in the open since it is their custom.”

She claimed that the festival was not violating the provisions of the MSR Act 2013. But the videos and the pictures below show clearly that the organizers chose to ignore these directions of the Commission and the Revenue Department even as the the district administration chose to look the other way and wilfully abetted the perpetuation of the casteist inhuman practice of manual scavenging.



Image showing insanitary latrines being cleaned by workers

Without a flush, these latrines require manual cleaning making them insanitary latrines as defined under the MSR Act 2013

Sec 5 of the MSR Act 2013 prohibits construction of insanitary latrines. Violation of this provision is a punishable criminal offense.

2(1)(g) “manual scavenger” means a person engaged or employed, at the commencement of this Act or at any time thereafter, by an individual or a local authority
or an agency or a contractor, for manually cleaning, carrying, disposing of, or otherwise handling in any manner, human excreta in an insanitary latrine or in an open drain or pit into which the human excreta from the insanitary latrines is disposed of, or on a railway track or in such other spaces or premises, as the Central Government or a State Government may notify, before the excreta fully decomposes in such manner as may be
prescribed, and the expression “manual scavenging” shall be construed accordingly.

Employment of persons for cleaning insanitary latrines is prohibited under Sec 7 of the MSR Act 2013.

Barefoot workers cleaning the insanitary latrines

After this damning evidence surfaced, Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi Karnataka, submitted complaint to the Chief Secretary of Government of Karnataka and also submitted a memorandum to the Chairman of National Safai Karmachari Commission during their visit to Karnataka. Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi demanded that cases should be  immediately booked under Sec 8 and 9 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 and Sec 3(1)(j) of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 as amended in 2016 against the organizers of the event and the Deputy Commissioner of Hassan district who failed to ensure the dignity and human rights of dalit workers.

As a follow-up to the complaint filed with Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka and Karnataka State Safai Karmachari Commission by Safai Karmachari Kavulu Samithi, a spot inspection was arranged to be conducted on 15.03.2018. It is pertinent that the complaint against Deputy Commissioner, Hassan for constructing insanitary latrines and employment of manual scavengers to clean them in violation of Sec 5 and 7 of The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, was filed on 30.01.2018. The festival for which these insanitary latrines were constructed was held between Feb 7-26 2018. Hence, the administration did not act on these complaints till the event was over and a spot inspection was arranged after 45 days of the complaint being filed and 3 weeks of the event being over.

On 15.03.2018, the inspection was conducted in the presence of officials from Social Welfare Department, Tehsildar Office (Chennarayapattana), Panchayat Development Officer (Shravanbelegola) and Assistant Executive Engineer, Hassan, Karnataka Urban Water Supply Board.

Spot Inspection (Mahajar) Report:

Mahazar Report

We visited one portion of a temporary settlement called Tyaginagar built for the Jain monks. On one side of the settlement 72 dry latrines have been constructed exclusively for use by the monks. We were told that there were at least two more such latrine clusters which means upwards of 200 insanitary latrines.

Notice saying “For Use by Monks Only”

There was clear evidence that these latrines had been used as some of them still had dry faecal matter and there was no flush system to clean the faeces without either using a bucket or a pipe.

Picture of a Insanitary Latrine with dry fecal matter as present on 15.03.2018
Picture of a Insanitary Latrine with dry fecal matter as present on 15.03.2018

The faecal matter had to be washed away using bucket or a pipe to pits dug up behind these latrines. The pits had been covered with tin sheds and strong smell was emanating from the used latrines and the pits. The space around the pits and latrines were closed off using tin sheets and it is not possible for Sucking Machines to enter the area and clean the latrines.

Pits dug behind the insanitary latrines into which undecomposed fecal matter was being discharged

Section 2(1)(e) of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, defined insanitary latrines in following terms:-

insanitary latrine” means a latrine which requires human excreta to be cleaned or otherwise handled manually, either in situ, or in an open drain or pit into which the excreta is discharged or flushed out”

Clearly the fecal matter from the latrines built at Shravanbelegola had to be cleaned manually and had been discharged into pits before decomposition as evidenced by the strong smell emanating from the pits.

Section 5(1)(a) of the 2013 Act prohibits construction of insanitary latrines:-

5. (1) Notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, no person, local authority or any agency shall, after the date of commencement of this Act,—

           (a) construct an insanitary latrine;

Any violation of this prohibition is a punishable offense as per Sect 8 of the Act:-

8. Whoever contravenes the provisions of section 5 or section 6 shall for the first contravention be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees or with both, and for any subsequent contravention with imprisonment which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both.

Section 22 of the 2013 Act states that

22. Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, every offence under this Act shall be cognizable and non-bailable.

Thus the police can take cognizance of offences under the Act even without a complaint but as yet there is not even an FIR in this case. Is the Deputy Commissioner above the law? Or is the dignity of dalit workers expendable?