Regardless of a ban on hazardous cleansing with out protecting gear, contractors from Delhi’s public works division employed scores of staff, together with many who claimed to be minors, to desilt rainwater drains manually with out security gear.
Not less than at 4 places in South Delhi Adchini, Malviya Nagar, Saket and Ber Sarai the place desilting work is happening, New laundry discovered staff falling into drains with a decide in knee-deep mud, with out rubber boots, hand gloves or physique kits, and largely of their underwear.
Authorities are finishing up desilting, on orders from , with an eye fixed on the G20 conferences within the nationwide capital in September.
Within the Adchini space, the place work has been happening for over per week, no equipment has been used and reportedly no security tools has been supplied to staff who enter eight to 10 toes deep sewers a number of occasions a day between . 9 and 17.
India had banned handbook scavenging almost 10 years in the past and outlawed hazardous sewage and septic tank cleansing with out protecting tools via the Prohibition of Employment as Guide Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act. The Nationwide Human Rights Fee issued a discover in 2021 stating that sanitation staff coming into or cleansing septic tanks and sewer traces should be geared up with helmets, security jacket, gloves, masks, rubber boots, security glasses, torch gentle together with oxygen bottle.
No security tools or medical consideration
These staff, who do the job for a meager wage of Rs 300 to Rs 400 a day, within the absence of security tools, usually step on sharp objects in drains full of poisonous waste. Yeh hota rehta hai, claimed Suresh, 35, a resident of Mahipalpur, who was cleansing a drain in Adchini. It occurs usually. If we’re injured by damaged glass, we’ll come out to deal with our accidents after which resume work.
The employees largely work in pairs, certainly one of them goes in and digs out the sludge, whereas one other stands near the manhole to dump the waste. In case of accidents, the employees apply bandages to their cuts earlier than re-entering the drain.
Inder Kumar, 20, a employee at Ber Serai claimed: You may see how exhausting our job is. Besides, our wages haven’t elevated a lot. Even once we are injured, the contractor deducts the price of the remedy from our wage.
In most locations, the employees claimed that the price of even a bandage is deducted from their wages. No tetanus injection or different first help is obtainable.
Not less than of the ten staff on the Adchini web site and two of the ten staff at Ber Sarai mentioned New laundry that they’re minors.
It is solely been per week since I got here to work right here. However I have not entered the sewer but, I am afraid, mentioned Mahipalpur resident Arun, who mentioned he was 17 years previous and had lately dropped out of faculty. I am simply cleansing and shutting the manhole cowl proper now. The boys who find yourself within the sewers additionally get drunk. They begin ingesting within the morning to allow them to work.
Amarjeet, who additionally claimed to be a minor, mentioned he cleans the drains as no different work is out there.
Whereas the on-site supervisor refused to touch upon the alleged presence of minors, he maintained that the employees select to not put on security tools regardless of being supplied with the identical.
Round 46 handbook scavengers died in Delhi within the 5 years to 2022, even because the Delhi authorities claimed there have been no handbook scavengers within the capital, reported final 12 months.
Though the Arvind Kejriwal authorities commissioned 200 drain cleansing machines in 2019, staff at Adchini mentioned they’d by no means used a machine to do the work and the one possibility for them was to get down into the drains and clear them manually.
Intent on ending handbook scavenging, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a serious finances announcement in February, allocating almost Rs 100 crore for the transition of sewage programs from manhole to machine mode, throughout all cities and cities over three years.
A lot of the staff on the workplaces complained in regards to the lack of any vital improve of their wages.
Girish, 50, a employee at Ber Sarai who has been cleansing drains for over eight years, mentioned information laundry, to his wage was elevated by Rs 30 this 12 months and that he’s now incomes Rs 300. I’ve a household of 5. How will I handle with this meager quantity?
Mohammed Saeid, labor supervisor at Ber Sarai, mentioned wages are decided by labor contractors who rent staff on contract on behalf of the PWD contractor, which owns the drain desilting tender. There are two contractors concerned within the course of, he mentioned, one that gives staff and one other that owns the desilting bid.
Sarwant Kumar, a PWD official in command of south Delhi’s Aurobindo Marg, mentioned the division had outsourced the work of desilting drains to contractors.
Requested if staff had been concerned in handbook scavenging, he mentioned the PWD solely maintains stormwater drains, which doesn’t contain cleansing human waste. We don’t preserve sewer traces. These are all rainwater drains. So there may very well be no handbook cleansing.
The PMSR Act defines the handbook cleansing, transportation and disposal of human excreta from dry latrines as handbook elimination. Cleansing of sewers and septic tanks is described as hazardous cleansing. It states that hazardous cleansing is prohibited within the absence of protecting tools.
Bezwada Willson, convenor of Safai Karmachari Andolan, maintained that handbook cleansing of drains is in opposition to the legislation as India doesn’t have a extremely segregated drainage system.
In India, we should not have a separate stormwater, rainwater or sewage drainage system. All the pieces spilled, from the kitchen to the bathroom, goes to the identical drains. So who is aware of what’s in a drain…In spite of everything, it is a harmful job, and the legislation by no means permits anybody to do any harmful job with out some protecting gear, Wilson mentioned.
No separate drainage system
In Delhi, the drainage community consists of three kinds of drains: stormwater drains, storm water drains and sewer traces. The sewerage traces are maintained by the Delhi Jal Board and stormwater drains are underneath the jurisdiction of each the Municipal Company of Delhi and the PWD.
Whereas all three are totally different networks on paper, they bleed into one another on the bottom.
Furthermore, the dearth of sewerage traces in Delhi’s unauthorized colonies usually results in a scenario the place the sewage from these colonies flows into storm drains and ultimately into the Yamuna River in its untreated type, New laundry had beforehand. In lots of localities within the capital, sewer traces and rainwater drains are linked to one another to keep away from overflows.
Regardless of these realities, the official line from each MCD and PWD is that their drains don’t have anything to do with the sewage. All three our bodies MCD, PWD and Jal Board additionally refuse to make use of any handbook cleaners to wash the waste system.
Staff additionally instructed New laundry that in lots of locations rainwater drains are linked to family sewer traces. Most drains are filled with sludge, mentioned Ratanpal, 35, a laborer at Malviya Nagar.
The shortage of a well-planned waste administration system and the involvement of a number of public authorities in its upkeep and operation additionally results in a scarcity of accountability.
This was evident within the trial concerning the loss of life of a handbook scavenger within the Delhi space in September 2022. Two males, Rohit Chandaliya and Ashok Gulia, died after they entered a manhole in a Delhi Growth Authority colony. Three days later, the Delhi Excessive Court docket took discover of itself.
Within the preliminary months of the listening to, all authorities businesses Delhi Jal Board, Delhi Growth Authority and the Delhi authorities have been seen giving one another silverware on the query of who would pay compensation to the victims’ households as per the Supreme Court docket’s 2014 verdict. It took 4 months earlier than the quota was settled.
Additionally Learn: Past lack of numbers, caste discrimination: Why handbook scavenging continues years after abolition
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