Category Archives: legal intervention

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?

 

Press Release (14/02/2018): Government apathy and inaction leads to two more preventable manual scavenging deaths in Bengaluru

14th February 2018

In a sheer display of government apathy and neglect, two more labourers, Ramu (age 25 ) and Ravi (age 28 ), from Raichur, have been deliberately pushed to death in a septic tank at the Yum Lok restaurant in AECS layout. These deaths are as a result of failure of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KPSCB) and the BBMP to strictly implement guidelines around the construction and maintenance of commercial establishments.
Under section 7 of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013,expressly prohibits employment of persons for hazardous cleaning of a sewers or septic tanks and any contravention of this section is cognizable and a non-bailable offence under section 9 of the above Act. Additionally, offences are made out under section 3(1) (j) of the Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 as amended in 2016, as well as under IPC sec 304 (part 2).

As per the statement issued by the Municipal Corporation’s Joint Commissioner for Health, Sarfaraz Khan, the restaurant’s application has been rejected by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike but it has continued to operate illegally. Why are illegal entities continuing to operate in Bengaluru? It is due to failure of the monitoring and implementing bodies such as the BBMP and KPSCP to continuously monitor and take strict actions to shut down commercial establishments that operate with impunity and leading to loss of life of young men from marginalized communities.

The Safai Karmachari Kavalu samiti, Karnataka, is a group of activists working for the rehabilitation of persons engaged in manual scavenging and total eradication of manual scavenging, which is the worst form of caste based slavery. Known cases of manual scavenging related deaths in Bengaluru city has already reached 5 in 2018. The Kavalu samiti strongly condemns the continuing inaction by the KSPCB, BBMP and state government to take strict action to prevent all forms of manual scavenging and strictly penalize violations by the government, commercial establishments and apartment complexes.

As per the directions under the 2014 Supreme Court judgement in Safai Karamachari Andolan & Ors. Vs. Union of India & Ors family of the two men, should be provided a compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs each immediately and the state government should also take immediate steps towards providing a government job to one member of deceased family as per the provisions of the 2013 Act and 2014 SC judgement.

For more information, please contact

Mr. K B Obalesh
State Convener, Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi Karnataka
Ph: +91 97425 86468

Media Coverage

  1. Manual scavenging: Monitoring panel has had only one meeting,’ The Hindu, Feb 16, 2018.

Press Release (31/01/2018): The STP that killed 3 workers at N D Sepal Apartments shouldn’t have been operating in the first place

Date: 31 Jan 2018

The death of Madegowda (45), Srinivas (52) and Narayanswamy (43) while cleaning the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) at N D Sepal Apartments at Somsundarapalya, Bengaluru could have been prevented if Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) had discharged its responsibility by ordering the closure of the STP which was not authorized to operate in the first place.

To be in compliance with the mandatory requirements of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, apartments have to seek Consent for Establishment (CFE) before building STPs and Consent for Operation (CFO) before starting operation of the STP.

Documents accessed by Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi-Karnataka, a forum of Dalit activists working to eradicate manual scavenging, show that while the builder of N D Sepal Apartment had been granted Consent for Establishment (CFE) in 2006, the apartments owners had not applied for Consent For Operation (CFO), making the STP an unauthorized illegal one. Whats more, this fact was not unknown to the officials of the Board. In a joint inspection conducted by KSPCB and BWSSB officials on 12.06.2017, the inspection team discovered that the apartments were operating the STP without proper authorization. The inspection report also noted that the treatment process of the STP was non-compliant with the specified discharge standards.

Based on this inspection report, a show-cause notice was sent on 24.07.2017 to the N D Sepal Apartment Owners Association asking them to respond in 7 days time, to which the apartment owners never responded. In light of these events, KSPCB should have issued closure notice to the apartment asking them to immediately shut down the STP but no such action has been taken as on date. If KSPCB had discharged its regulatory responsibilities, three lives could have been saved.

This is the third in a series of incidents in the last 18 months where workers with no experience of STP maintenance have been made to clean them and have died in the process. On 17th Oct 2016, two workers Venkatesh (27) and Manjunath (30) had died while cleaning the STP at RNS Shantinivas Apartments in Yeshwantpur. On June 1, 2017, Prithviraj (23) had died in the STP at Jatti Dwarkamayi Apartments in Whitefield. These deaths could have been prevented if the Board while mandating establishment of STPs in apartments had asked the question of who will clean these STPs and put in place guidelines on cleaning of STPs in compliance with the provisions of the Prevention of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013. But keeping in with the casteist origin of the practice of Manual Scavenging no such guidelines were prescribed leading to the death of 6 workers, two of them Dalits. In light of the above facts, Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi Karnataka demands that an urgent meeting of the Board be convened and following actions be taken:-

  1. All unauthorised and non-compliant STPs should be shut down immediately;
  2. The Board should issue immediate notification prohibiting engagements of human beings for cleaning, repair and maintenance of the STPs which is a criminal offence as per Section 7 of The Prevention of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013;
  3. The Board should issue detailed guidelines on Operation and Maintenance including cleaning of STPs prescribing procedures which are complaint with provisions of The Prohibition of Manual Scavenging and their Rehabilitation Act 2013.

Lastly the Police should add penal sections of The Prevention of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 as well as the Sec 304 Part II of Indian Penal Code to the existing FIRs.

For more information, please contact

Mr. K B Obalesh

State Convener, Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi Karnataka

Ph: +91 97425 86468

Media Coverage

  1. ‘No approval was sought for STP where 3 manual scavengers died’, Times of India, Feb 1, 2018.