Eight killed in sewer in 5 months in national capital, government silent

In spite of being illegal, people are being asked to enter in sewer-septic tanks. 83 people have died in sewer tanks in 2018

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

Bhasha Singh

Five young men died while clearing the septic tank in the posh area of DLF Capital Green Society in Moti Nagar. And even after two days, no major action has been taken against the culprits. In 2018, till now eight people have lost their lives while clearing sewer-septic tank in Delhi. This year alone, 83 people have met the tragic end in this way in the country. Last year alone, there were 12 such deaths in Delhi.

Bezwada Wilson is an Indian activist and one of the founders and National Convenor of the Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA), an Indian human rights organisation that has been campaigning for the eradication of manual scavenging. "These are all murders and the government, DLF and concerned officers should be held responsible for this. When a sewage plant was built, why did they not create any provision for cleaning it? Who will answer it? The law of the country clearly states that no one should enter a gutter or a septic tank, then why are people forcibly being sent into the septic tank in the country? Five young people lost their lives and the Prime Minister does not speak a word nor does the chief minister- Why? Are the people who die in Septic tank not human beings? Does their life have no value? So far, more than 1700 Indian nationals have been killed in sewer-septic tanks, but no one cares about it'.

Due to the pressure of the Safai Karmchari movement, now the FIRs are being registered in these deaths. The cases are filed under section 341/18, 304A, the deterrent practice abolition and their rehabilitation law 2013 and relevant sections of the SC-ST Atrocities Prevention Act. The sewage plant in-charge, Ajay Chaudhary, has been arrested but no action has been taken against the higher officials as yet. Nor have the families of those killed been given financial help or compensation.

The five deceased young men - Pankaj Kumar Yadav (26 years old), Umesh Kumar (22 years old), Mrityunjay Kumar Singh alias Raja (20 years), Sarfaraz (19 years) and Vishal (19 years)- had no experience in cleaning the septic tank nor were they employed for this purpose. All of them worked as pump operators or in the housekeeping department. Their family members clearly told this correspondent that they were threatened and forced into the gas chamber and after they died neither any company official nor any government officer visited the hospital. Nobody has provided any help, the families of the deceased are taking corpses on their own expense to their village. Rajeev Yadav, an uncle of the deceased, Pankaj Yadav, said, "Pankaj had come to Delhi from Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh a year ago and he got a job at ₹1200 per month in a firm called Unnati which was employed by the DLF Capitol Green for housekeeping and sewage cleaning. He was forced to enter into the septic tank and he died. I am very sad and angry that no man from the company came to the hospital. They killed our child and did not even come to see.”

Similarly, there was Sarfaraz (19) from Darbhanga village of Bihar. Sarfaraz’s father, Mohammad Hayul said, “He was a very promising child, but due to poverty he could not study. Last year he took admission in a graduation course from open school. He was employed as a motor operator in the sewage treatment plant, for a salary of ₹9000, then why did they force him to enter a septic tank?” Mohammad Hayul is disabled and is solely dependent on Sarfaraz.

The biggest irony of the situation is that in the capital of the country eight people have died within a few months cleaning the sewer-septic tank and even today the people are clearly violating the law but people are still made to enter the sewers. While no person can be asked to enter a sewer-septic tank under the law-abolition and rehabilitation of the year 2013. In the year 2014, the Supreme Court had also declared it illegal in its historical judgment and had ordered that each of the families who lost their relative while cleaning the septic tank since 1993 be granted a compensation of ₹10 lakh. This order of the apex court is not being followed either.

Dr Renu Chachhar, in-charge of the sewage workers platform of the Safai Karmachari Andolan said, "The modern technology is used for everything in every field, but not for cleaning the sewer-septic tank. Everyone knows that it is illegal, but it is still practised openly primarily because no major action has been taken against any culprit. There were eight deaths in Delhi between May and September this year but no one cares about it.”

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Published: 12 Sep 2018, 2:16 PM