Kin of 104 Persons Who Died While Cleaning Sewers Not Compensated, Finds Parliamentary Panel

The standing committee on social justice and empowerment called for "suitable measures" and that there should be "no further dilly-dallying in awarding compensation".

New Delhi: A parliamentary standing committee has flagged the delay by the Union and state governments in releasing compensation to the families of 104 persons who had died while cleaning sewers or septic tanks.

The report was tabled in the Lok Sabha on December 16 by the standing committee on social justice and empowerment, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Rama Devi.

The panel asked the Union government to take suitable measures to compensate the families of the deceased persons, Scroll.in reported.

“The committee would be happy if there is no further dilly-dallying in awarding compensation in the pending 104 cases and information in this regard is furnished to the committee,” it said.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ordered that the families of all those who died during sewer cleaning from 1993 onwards must be given Rs 10 lakh as compensation.

However, a Right to Information (RTI) query filed by The Wire in 2019 revealed that between 1993 and 2019, families of only around 50% of the workers who had died cleaning sewers received compensation.

Citing documents, the report said that in many cases, the victims’ families were granted Rs 5 lakh, Rs 4 lakh or even Rs 2 lakh instead of Rs 10 lakh.

In its report, the parliamentary standing committee last week said that the onus of implementing policy decisions lies with the Union government. It expressed displeasure over “the pace in which the things are being processed”.

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The committee stressed that the families of the deceased persons should be compensated in a time-bound manner.

It added that norms should be fixed to ensure deterrence so that “no one has the courage to engage persons in violation of the laid down norms and if anyone is found violating the norms, the responsibility of the guilty is fixed without delay”, the news outlet reported.

The Union government on December 13 told the Lok Sabha that no person had died from manual scavenging in the country in the last three years (2019 to 2022). It, however, said that a total of 233 people had died “due to accidents while undertaking hazardous cleaning of sewer and septic tanks” in this time period.

Manual scavenging is banned under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act of 2013. However, this practice still continues in many parts of the country. The practice of manual scavenging violates Article 21 of the Indian constitution which guarantees the right to live life with dignity.