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.
The State-level Jatha for eradication of Manual Scavenging from Karnataka which was 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Sec 304 Part II and Sec 338 should be immediately added to the FIR filed in the case at the Beguru Police Station.
The Beguru Police Station should expedite the process of investigation and filing of charge sheet in the case.
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.
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.
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.
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:-
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.
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 STPswhich 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:-
As per mediareports, 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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Ph: +91 97425 86468
Town Municipal Council, City Municipal Council and Mahanagar Pallike Pourakarmika Mahasagha
Safaikarmachari Kavulu Samithi – Karnataka
Main Demands regarding Contract Safaikarmacharis
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;
The officials responsible for this incident should be booked under SC/ST Atrocities Act 1989 as amended, and they should be immediately suspended;
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;
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;
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.
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;
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)
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.
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;
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;
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;
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.
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
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;
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.
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)
Narayana, State President and Former President – State Safaikarmachari Commission
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 .
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
Took pre-exam coaching
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
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.
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: email@example.com Ph: +91 97425 86468
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 during22-31 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:-
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;
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;
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;
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?