Home States Karnataka Report stated that TN accounts for 45% of manual scavenger deaths

Report stated that TN accounts for 45% of manual scavenger deaths

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(G.N.S) Dt. 03
Coimbatore
Despite laws and Supreme Court orders, sanitary workers continue to enter sewers and septic tanks; many have lost their lives in the past two decades while cleaning human waste. Among states, Tamil Nadu has earned the dubious distinction of having the highest number of deaths of manual scavengers, as per data submitted by Union minister of housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri in the Rajya Sabha.
Of the 323 deaths reported across the country since 1993, 144 were from TN, said the minister. In Karnataka, 59 workers died and in Uttar Pradesh 52 lives were lost while working in sewers and septic tanks. Tamil Nadu government data shows that in 2016 11 deaths were recorded, of which five were in Chennai while cleaning septic tanks; two people died in Virudhunagar, and one each in Madurai, Thiruvallur, Trichy and Villupuram districts. Members of the Safai Karamchari Andolan, an NGO working for the benefit of the sanitary workers across the country, said this is not the real picture. According to their survey, there were 1,340 deaths in the past 10 years across the country, and in Tamil Nadu 294 deaths were reported in the same period.
D V Samuel, state convener of Safai Karamchari Andolan, said, “The names of the workers who died in septic tanks and sewers in the past two years were not on the list of manual scavengers submitted by the state government to the Supreme Court. According to the government, only 426 workers were engaged in manual scavenging. But as per a survey conducted by us in just 8 cities in Tamil Nadu, there were nearly 3,000 such workers.
Commissioner of municipal administration G Prakash said, “The definition of manual scavenger is different according to the government and the NGOs. If we classify workers employed in septic tank cleaning lorries as manual scavengers, then the numbers will be higher,” he said. He added that according to them, unscientific handling of human faecal matter without any safe equipment in place and without following proper protocol is manual scavenging. “Misinterpretation of definition will cause a huge difference. If there are discrepancies, people employed as manual scavengers can always come forward and we will verify,” said Prakash.
But activists said cases of manual scavenging continues to surface. On December 22, 2017, three men who were collecting gold dust particles from a gold smithery at R S Puram in Coimbatore died of asphyxiation. In March 2017, three men died in a manhole of asphyxiation in Cuddalore. “If the state claims to be free of manual scavenging, why are people continuing to die every year? Many contractors and officials are also threatening these workers,” said Muruganandham, an activist in Coimbatore.
JagadeeshHire Mani, member of the national commission for safai karamchari, said the reason for 44% of the deaths of manual scavengers in Coimbatore was the lack of awareness among workers on safety equipment. “They get paid around Rs1,000 for one such work and they undertake it. The government has to create awareness to reduce such deaths,” he said.

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