For a breather, the Narendra Modi led government is all set to amend rules of the legislation which outlaws manual scavenging to make it mandatory for contractors as well as private individuals who engage workers for manual handling of human excreta, to pay Rs 10 lakh each to families of those who die while cleaning sewers or septic tanks. This would be in addition to the Rs 10 lakh compensation which will be paid by the government in such cases. Following the severe under-reporting of the extent of the caste-based practice by states, the Centre will also undertake a nationwide survey by a third-party to account for the numbers, Indian Express reported.
The decision was taken by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment at a meeting chaired by Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot on Tuesday. States have accounted for merely 13,000-odd manual scavengers — with 80 per cent in Uttar Pradesh and most others maintaining that they have none at all. Manual scavenging, with its definition limited to manual cleaning of dry latrines, was outlawed in India in 1993. In 2013, that the law amended ‘The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act’, it also recognised more hazardous forms of the practice including the work of sewer and septic tank cleaners, whose deaths were entirely unaccounted for until then.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ordered state governments to pay Rs 10 lakh compensation each to families of all deceased workers since 1993. Now, the ministry has also proposed to amend rules under the Act so that people responsible for hiring will also be responsible to pay the sum to the victim’s family. According to the reports presented at the meeting, only seven states have reported paying compensation for deaths in the last 25 years. Even states like Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Punjab, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu — have identified only around 270 cases of deaths and paid compensation in just a fraction of identified cases, with many paying only half of the amount due to each victim’s family.