Our scavengers still dying in sewers, Mr PM: Bezwada Wilson

Deaths in sewer and septic tanks occur, either due to the inhalation of sewer gases or exposure to the toxic matter.

Bengaluru: Living a dignified life is a constitutional right, but even after so many battles to put an end to manual scavenging across the country, the inhuman practice continues to see administrative agencies turn a blind eye. Since 2008, over 70 people have lost their lives. Last Saturday, two manual scavengers drowned while cleaning a drain in Nagwara, on the outskirts of the IT capital, Bengaluru.

Raman Magsaysay award winner and Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) founder Bezwada Wilson told Deccan Chronicle that the zeal to implement the laws is absent across the political spectrum in the country. "The most unfortunate part is that the death of manual scavengers does not burn the conscience and emotions of anybody in the country. There are no preventive measures and plans either by the state or the central government on how to put an end to this issue completely," he said.

Deaths in sewer and septic tanks occur, either due to the inhalation of sewer gases or exposure to the toxic matter.

Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the SKA released a manifesto that demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the apathy towards continuing deaths of workers in sewers.

The video of the Prime Minister washing the feet of sanitation workers in Allahabad was just a photo-op, said Mr Wilson, equally scathing about other political parties. "Though the Congress has touched upon something about sanitation workers in its manifesto, not a single political party is interested in putting an end to this practice," he said.

Former chief minister Siddaramaiah said that his government would put an end to the inhuman practice. "Yes, he said that, but for politicians like him, a small minority group of safai karmcharis does not matter. They cannot influence the elections. Bengaluru, despite being a city of technical prowess, has not been able to create the right technology that can replace manual scavenging," he commented.

According to the data collected by the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, there have been over 600 deaths in the past 25 years. Tamil Nadu has recorded the highest at 194, Gujarat 122 and Karnataka 68 deaths.

Mr Wilson pointed out that the Karnataka Safai Karamchari Commission is running without a chairperson for the past four months.

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