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:-
- All unauthorised and non-compliant STPs should be shut down immediately;
- 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;
- 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
‘No approval was sought for STP where 3 manual scavengers died’, Times of India, Feb 1, 2018.