THE Delhi state committee of the CPI(M), in a statement issued on August 7, has expressed shock and outrage at the death of three workers due to suffocation while manually cleaning a sewer in Jal Vihar, Lajpat Nagar. It expressed its condolence to the families of the deceased.
This is the second such instance in less than a month. Earlier four workers had died in similar circumstances in Ghitorni. Both these horrifying instances have taken place in areas that fall under the South Delhi Municipal Corporation. It is reported that the deceased were contract workers, who undertook this fatal task at the orders of their contractor and a junior engineer of the Delhi Jal Board.
Despite laws banning manual scavenging, manual cleaning of sewers in Delhi is commonplace. Machines have been provided for cleaning sewers but they are often out of operation. Cleaning of sewers is given out on contract. This makes matters worse as contractors do not provide obligatory protective gear – gumboots, gloves, masks etc.
Letting the present set up of manual cleaning of sewers is like inviting death for manual sewer cleaners. Therefore, the Party demands that:
1. The junior engineer, contractor and officials of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation must be held responsible for this tragedy. They should be dismissed and charged with murder under relevant sections of the IPC.
2. Payment of Rs 10 lakhs to each of the families of the deceased should be ensured.
3. Manual cleaning of sewers be banned and replaced by mechanical cleaning of the same.