Seven people including 4 sanitation workers died in Gujarat while cleaning a septic tank. This shocking incident, is, however, not the first. Every day, ‘accidents’ are reported from different parts of the country where sanitation workers clean septic tanks and consume poisonous gases and get killed.
The recent tragedy raises serious questions – at the lack of accountability & the status of manual scavenging in India, which technically is an illegal activity since 1993. And yet scores and scores of manual scavengers die, every year, because of sheer apathy.
There are still 34,859 manual scavengers in the country; over 800 deaths have been reported since 1993.
It’s a shame that this fiendish method of torture prevails in our society in such modern times. With so much technology and more in place, the practice of making human beings participate in such a life-threatening activity is beyond comprehension.
Reports have proved that more Indians lose their precious lives due to this heinous practice than fighting terrorists in Kashmir. About 44 deaths are reported each year and the number is on a notorious rise.
Despite the Supreme Court passing strictures against sending people into manholes without proper protective gear, the death toll keeps significantly increasing. The SC also passed a law that an amount of Rs 10 lacs will be provided to the families of the people who lose their lives while on the ‘job’.
The act of manual scavenging involves somebody going into a manhole with nothing but a loincloth and no proper gear. He/she faces extreme life threatening conditions and inhale immeasurable amounts of toxic gases like methane, hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide while getting rid of human muck.
No human being was put on this earth to be subjected to such atrocities in life. In fact, reports have mentioned that 90% manual scavengers end up turning to drinking alcohol because it helps in numbing their senses which further lets them put themselves down a sewer full of human excreta.
Manual scavengers employed with municipalities earn between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000 while private contractors hire them at wages as low as Rs 4,000 to Rs 6,000 a month.
Even though no one can put a price on a person’s life and justify this horrendous practice, the pay grade is so low that the manual scavengers can never manage to escape this life due to financial constraints.
According to certain estimations, 1.3 million Dalits in the country, out of which the majority are women, are manual scavengers. The whole act of it is so much beyond one’s threshold of disgust for obvious reasons that these people do not even feel like eating food. On top of that, due to the blatant discrimination against the caste and their occupational status, a manual scavenger’s offspring is also left with no option than to get in the same line of work.
Imagine being handed a revolting life like that with no escape. It makes you wonder about how lost we are on our ideology about basic humanity.