HUNDREDS of activists under the banner of CPI(M) Delhi state committee and the Delhi committees of CITU, AIDWA and DSMM held a demonstration on September 24 to protest against the recent deaths of workers while manually cleaning sewers in Delhi and the callous attitude of Delhi and central government towards these horrific incidents.
Protesters assembled at Delhi Gate and marched towards Delhi Secretariat demanding justice for manual scavengers who have been forced to clean the sewers in Delhi without any safety equipments. It is shocking to note that most of the sewer cleaning system is outsourced to the private contractors or individuals in absence of government infrastructure to deal with the cleaning of sewers. Brinda Karat, Polit Bureau member of CPI(M), KM Tiwari, CPI(M) state secretary and other leaders led the procession. The wife of Anil, who recently died after entering a sewer, was also present.
While marching towards Delhi Secretariat, the protestors raised slogans ‘stop the murder of manual scavengers, arrange machines to clean the sewers in Delhi, rehabilitate manual scavengers and give them permanent jobs in related government departments, provide Rs 25 Lakh as compensation to the family of each deceased.
Addressing the protesters, Brinda Karat lambasted the state and central government for not taking appropriate steps to stop manual cleaning of sewers which is responsible for deaths of scores of poor innocent workers who belong to lower strata of the society, financially as well as socially. She said, “These deaths are not sewer deaths but planned murders of manual scavengers which needs to be taken head on with erring governments and departments”. Laws exist that ban manual scavenging but these are not implemented. The central and state governments have failed to provide adequate number of machines and trained personnel for cleaning sewers. In this situation people employ poverty stricken and socially discriminated individuals to clean sewers. This often results in the death of these sewer cleaners. She called on the Party workers to take these issues to every corner of Delhi and mobilise people in large numbers to force the government to stop manual scavenging and the resultant sewer deaths.
A delegation led by Brinda Karat met deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia and submitted to him a memorandum regarding the position and demands of the CPI(M) on issues related to manual scavenging and sewer deaths. The deputy chief minister assured the delegation that he will discuss the matter with the chief minister and the concerned minister and will soon apprise the CPI(M) about the state government’s reaction. He also assured that demands raised by the CPI(M) would be considered positively.