She had earlier filed an RTI query to find out the safety measures put in place by the BMC
A city-based advocate Abha Singh has filed a PIL in the bombay High Court for compensation to workers cleaning sewers.Mumbai Mirror Had carried a detailed report on the lapses wherein three workers died in Govandi in December 2019.
Alarmed by the number of deaths due to such an inhumane practice which is banned under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, Singh, who is a former bureaucrat, social activist and a practicing lawyer, with her daughter, Isha Singh, had filed an RTI (right to information) application to find out the safety measures put in place by the BMC for sewage workers.
Isha Singh said, “The BMC replied that no deaths had taken place in the department since 2014, which is patently false because news reports have revealed that the BMC workers have died cleaning sewers.’’
BMC engages in the nefarious activity of employing subcontractors for the manual cleaning of drains and sewers, so that any legal liability doesn’t fall on them.
However, Section 5(1)(b) of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 makes it clear that one cannot either directly or indirectly employ manual scavengers.
Further, the BMC revealed in its RTI reply that the only protection gear given to the manual scavengers were some masks, rope etc, which is inadequate to protect the vulnerable manuals scavengers, who have to inhale toxic gases present in the sewers and septic tanks. Further, the protective gear is in name only, and doesn’t meet the requirements of the safety gear standards as enumerated by the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules, 2013, Isha Singh said.
Additional research by Abha Singh and Isha Singh revealed that the Supreme Court in the case of Safai Karamchari Andolan vs Union of India had mandated in 2014 that Rs 10 lakh be awarded for every death that is caused due to cleaning of septic tanks and sewers. An RTI report reveals that till date,Maharashtra government has not paid to a single deceased manual scavenger/sewage worker the compensation of Rs 10 lakh, as prescribed by the Supreme Court.