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Safety equipment still a luxury for sanitation workers

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  24 Aug 2017 12:00 AM GMT

New Delhi, Aug 23: The death of 10 sanitation workers in the tiol capital alone has filly got people talking about a not so guarded secret: despite a ban on manual scavenging, sanitation workers are still made to go inside toxic sewers without any safety gear and with primitive tools to clean them.

Forty-year old Rishi Pal became the latest casualty of the pervasive apathy when he died on Sunday inside a gutter of the LNJP Hospital that he was tasked to clean. He had descended inside the sewer without even a ladder, let alone any safety gear. His colleagues at the hospital testified to IANS that there was nothing anomalous with the way Rishi Pal went about his business on Sunday and that none of them were ever provided any safety gear while cleaning the sewers of the establishment. About 70 such sanitation workers are hired on contract by the Public Works Department, an agency under Delhi government, for three hospitals in the vicinity, including LNJP. The two others are Guru k Eye Hospital and Govind Ballabh Pant Hospital. Another sanitation worker said that he was hired by a private contractor along with the rest to work for the government agency. Apart from being made to work in perilous conditions, these workers do not have any sort of identification card or any proof that they are employed by the contractor for the PWD, which makes their status peculiarly vulnerable for exploitation. Siraj agreed that sanitation workers go into the sewers after a couple of drinks.

The Indian government banned the practice of manual scavenging with the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, which also barred the manual cleaning of sewers and septic tanks.

The altertive to manual scavenging is the use of the suction machines and other sophisticated equipment. But, the altertive, which should also be the rule, is far from being implemented and it was made clear from what Khan said: “I have not seen any such machine ever being used in the hospital in five years of my working here.” Ten people have died inside the sewers of Delhi in a span of just over one month as a consequence of inhaling toxic gases while inside them. (IANS)

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