Taking suo motu cognizance of media reports that three workers were asphyxiated to death while cleaning a septic tank at an under-construction house in the Gandhi Nagar area in Karur district on November 15, the Commission issued notices to the State Chief Secretary, Director General of Police (DGP) and the Municipal Commissioner of Karur, calling for reports in the matter.
The Commission said they had been given six weeks to respond.
The NHRC asked the Chief Secretary to submit an action-taken report regarding fixing the responsibility or accountability of the authorities concerned, who had entrusted the cleaning of the septic tank in the construction site, besides the details of compensation and rehabilitation provided to the next of kin of the deceased.
“The report should also specify the awareness and sensitization camps initiated by the State Government to provide security covers to workers involved in hazardous cleaning of sewer/septic tanks etc., as well as the welfare schemes initiated or to be initiated by the State Government for such sanitary workers. Action taken report must also contain implementation of the Advisory issued by the NHRC on September 24, 2021, about the protection of human rights of the person engaged in hazardous cleaning and its outcome,” the commission said.
The DGP has been asked to report the status of the FIR filed in this connection, arrest, if any; whether contributory culpable negligence has been included in causing death, by invoking Section 304-A IPC against the private or public persons, involved in engaging the deceased workers for cleaning of the septic tank in the under-construction house without safety gears.
The Municipal Commissioner has to submit a report specifying the public servant(s) involved in the culpable negligence causing death by not enabling the workers to use safety gear and protective equipment while cleaning and the disciplinary action initiated against them as per the prevalent service rules.
“Issuing the notices, the Commission has observed that in spite of its Advisory, the Supreme Court Judgment in Safai Karamchari Andolan Ors. Vs. Union of India and Others (WP(C) No.583 of 2003) on March 27, 2014, providing for the specific mandate to the local authorities and other agencies to use modern technology for cleaning, and enactment of the “Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013″, the incidents of death of sanitary workers while entering/cleaning septic tank/sewer lines, have been happening unabated,” it said.
The Paramount consideration of the Commission is to ensure the complete eradication and abolition of sewage cleaning by sanitary workers manually, which runs completely contrary to the concept of the abolition of untouchability, as envisaged, in Article 17 of the Constitution of India.
It also emphasized that in case of any sanitary work or hazardous cleaning work, the local authority and the contractor/employers are to be held responsible and accountable, jointly and severally irrespective of the type of hiring/engagement of the sanitary workers. (ANI)